Tent City Bulldozed

by Nora Grace-Flood and Paul Bass, New Haven Independent, March 16, 2023

Police swarmed onto the tent city off the Boulevard early Thursday morning [March 16] to clear the holdout campers and bulldoze the site — and make sure the press and public couldn’t watch what they were doing.

The operation began at 7 a.m.

Dozens of officers arrived to carry out an eviction order for homeless people who have been living in an encampment near a soccer field off Ella Grasso Boulevard. The city ordered the campers last week to vacate after inspectors said they found public health violations including cooking taking place inside flammable tents and human waste on the premises….

Campers had until Wednesday [March 15] to leave. Most did.

Three of the encampment’s ongoing residents remained. They left without incident. Officers brought them
McGriddles for breakfast, and members of the city’s crisis intervention team, COMPASS, worked with them to find new lodgings. The United Way is also providing storage spaces for two of the individuals kicked out of the encampment Thursday.

An advocate for the homeless, Mark Colville, was also on site. He set up a camp to protest the order to vacate. He refused to leave Thursday morning. Police arrested him for trespassing and removed him forcibly from the scene on a stretcher before taking him to 1 Union Ave.

One of the three last residents, Barry Lawson, said COMPASS had arranged for him to stay at the Youth Continuum shelter, where he was headed.

A second, Paul C, said ​“I have no idea what’s next,” as he departed. “I just had a traumatic experience. They gave me 20 minutes to clear out. All my emotions are mixed and f*cked right now.”
He had noticed a La-Z-Boy recliner abandoned on the side of Columbus Avenue a few days ago. ​“I wonder what it would be like to get drunk and pass out in that chair,” he said, weighing his options for where to sleep that night.

The third, who was named Victor, was already gone by the time reporters arrived. Around 8:30 a.m., the public works department brought in trucks and bulldozers to begin dismantling the camp.

Former tent city resident Jacquedah, who declined to give her last name, rushed to the entryway of the encampment just as she noticed a bulldozer hauling her tent off the ground. “No!” she screamed, as cops rushed to hold her back from nearing the area. ​“That was my first home here!”

The Elicker administration took unusual steps to ensure the press would not see how the operation unfolded. Beginning Wednesday, it declined to state when they planned to carry out the eviction order. They declined requests for advance notice, claiming they didn’t know the planned time. By the time most reporters got word of the operation Thursday morning, it was well underway. Heavy machinery was on site to clear the tents and debris.

[Article can be read in its entirety at newhavenindependent.org/article/tent_city_bulldozed. Mark Colville is due in court March 24.]

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