Homeless tent sanctuary finds a new home
Neeti Upadhye, Staff writer
After three nights and two days, the homeless “tent sanctuary” in Washington Square Park was dismantled and moved to its new home on a picturesque patch of land near the Fredrick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge.
The move came after Sister Grace Miller of the House of Mercy and Mayor Lovely Warren agreed to end the protest and work together to build a new homeless shelter during a meeting Wednesday morning.
“The two of us met this morning to reaffirm our commitment to finding a solution for sheltering the hard-to-serve homeless population — a project that we have been working on for several weeks,” said Miller and Warren in a joint statement released by the city.
Miller was asked to choose a suitable shelter site and put together a plan, which will then be shared with Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, according to Miller. Although there is not an official timeline, homeless advocates are aiming to find a temporary solution before the harsh winter hits.
“I hope it won’t be long before we have this building,” said Miller. “But in the interim at least I know they have some protection against the elements.”
The tent sanctuary — comprised of 11 personal tents and a make-shift shack with food, blankets and coffee — was initially erected to draw attention to the city’s growing homeless issue. The encampment provided shelter and nourishment for nearly 25 people, many of whom have been sleeping outside since the Civic Center Garage closed its doors to Rochester’s homeless in August.
To avoid breaking the park’s 11 p.m. curfew, the fully assembled tents were carried in a procession from Washington Square Park to a grassy knoll off of South Avenue, near Interstate 490 and the Fredrick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge — fondly referred to by regular homeless visitors as “soggy mountain” — around 7:30 p.m.
Instead of disbanding, the homeless chose to relocate the camp as a whole to preserve their new-found sense of community.
“I feel safe here because I don’t have to get involved in criminal activity, prostitution things like that, to support myself like I do on the street,” said Michael Cicero, who has been sleeping in the tents. “This is genuinely a sanctuary for me in this community.”
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