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Gainesville homeless camp bulldozed Tuesday morning
A loader scrapes up trash and other debris Tuesday morning underneath the Queen City Bridge. Crews from the Georgia Department of Transportation and an state inmate crew cleared the encampment of items left behind.

The homeless camp beneath the Queen City Bridge in Gainesville is no more.

Crews from the Georgia Department of Transportation and a state prisoner detail worked Tuesday morning to clear the encampment of tents, couches and personal belongings.

As the buzzing of skid steers, excavators and chainsaws echoed beneath the overpass, the remains of the camp were tossed into dumpsters or covered over by dirt and sawdust.  

Only a wooden cross was left visible in the ruins as of late morning, and even it had been brought to the ground.  

Gainesville Police officials have said signs and barricades will be placed to keep the homeless from returning and that they will routinely patrol the site.

The city’s decision to close the camp was prompted by a recent request from the Georgia Department of Transportation, which owns the right of way.

The GDOT is citing a criminal trespassing law as justification for removing the homeless.

Gainesville Police visited the camp Monday to warn about the pending sweep, and the homeless remaining had cleared out by the time work crews arrived.

Several homeless men were hanging out next to the Queen City Trade Center just up the hill from the former encampment on Tuesday morning.

They said it was sad to see the camp, which had been inhabited since the 1990s, come and go.

The encampment emerged, in part, because of its proximity to local shelters and missions, as well as the protection it provided from the elements.

“It’s fixing to get cold and wet out here,” one man said while lamenting the camp’s extinction.

Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, led an effort with local nonprofits over the past few weeks to provide substance abuse, mental health counseling and housing services to the homeless here.  

Moss said more than a half-dozen individuals were transported to local shelters this month.

One man who goes by the nickname “New York” said that he has already landed a job and started working as a line cook since getting into a shelter last week.   

But others have refused help, and some have indicated that they will simply move on to the next bridge over.

“God brought me down here, and I’m praying he’ll show me where to go next,” one homeless man said.

The Rev. Victor Lamar Johnson, an outspoken advocate for the homeless living here, said more should have been done to relocate the camp’s residents “as a family.”

Violence is no stranger to the camp, and drug-fueled domestic disputes are not uncommon.

But for Demetric Newberry, a longtime resident of the camp who has relocated his tent to a wooded area nearby, Tuesday’s loss is a reminder of how much worse things might be for him.

“You better down there under the bridge than out there on the streets,” he said.

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