As Tent City Closes, The Homeless Prepare For Life From Under The Highway

Caseworkers are helping homeless people prepare for life away from the highway underpass, but many of them face an uncertain future.

By Stephanie KuoApril 21, 2016 3:45 pm,

This story originally appeared on KERA News

Inside Tent City In Its Last Days 

Morning rush hour beneath Interstates 30 and 45 is deafening. There’s a constant rumble and thud of cars passing overhead, yet somehow the people here are able to sleep. But in Tent City’s waning days, there’s not much time to rest.

Danielle Tooker is an outreach worker with MetroCare Services. She’s out at Tent City almost every day preparing residents for the move. One recent morning, she visited one of her neediest clients, 60-year-old Samuel Patterson. He’s been living in Tent City since December 2015.

He’s originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, where he served 10 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. He’s now a registered sex offender. He moved to Dallas after finishing his sentence, stayed a few months with his sister and then ended up on the streets. Patterson has a host of medical problems: trouble sleeping, anxiety and nerve damage from diabetes. He can barely walk, and spends most of his time in a wheelchair, in his sleeping bag or propped outside his tent.

“I sit back and relax. I got those five gallon buckets on the outside that I normally sit at too. And I sit out there and enjoy the breeze and people passing by, watching cars, the 18 wheelers going across,” he said. “It gets peaceful sometimes.”

In quieter parts of the encampment, residents keep the dirt in front of their tents swept, they play cards, they hang out on couches and recliners. Sometimes they grill over plumes of smoke from metal barrels.

Samuel Patterson’s grey and turquoise tent is tattered, but it’s draped with quilts and blankets to keep out the noise and the elements. His tent  is among 200 scattered across wide swaths of sand and dirt. Inside, there are a few buckets, boxes of papers and magazines, empty food containers and dirty clothes.

“I’m more comfortable than I was downtown, being around the Bridge, the Stewpot and places like that and trying to sleep on the sidewalk,” he said. “That’s almost a no-no.”

Patterson said in Tent City, the police don’t shoo him away early in the morning.

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