It’s a big house with no walls and cars on the roof. There’s a plastic shelf with cleaning supplies, a “kitchen” table, a book stand with a bright white copy of the Bible, a bubbling fish tank, beds, and a worn-through couch that no longer sits in front of a television but instead looks out on commuters merging onto Guilford Avenue.
All of these things belong to the residents of “Camp 83.” At any given time, there are 15 to 20 people living under the I-83 overpass in tents and makeshift dwelling spaces. The camp has been there for over a year, according to James, who lives in a tent at the lower part of the over pass and didn’t want to use his last name. On Sundays, people from all over the region stream past them to get to the downtown farmers market.
A few of the regular residents include Maacela Davis, a former model; Harrison Harvey, who has what looks like gangrene on his gnarled feet; and Shawn, a young gay man who was cast out of his home at 18 by an intolerant mother and also declined to give a last name. During the day, they can be seen milling around the camp, when they aren’t out looking for work, food, and money. At night the overhead streetlights shower the camp in vomitous shades of green and orange and create dangerous shadows, so most of the residents stay in the tents for fear of getting robbed or sleep fitfully on beds exposed to the humid air. The city seems to have given up on moving people along. So they stay.
“I’ve been out here 12 months roughly,” says Darrell Jones. “I have colon cancer. I’m basically out here to die. I can’t work now because my phone was stolen.”
“What it is that everybody out here, know what I mean, needs to get together to help everybody else,” James, seated, says. “Anybody can be in the same situation, right? I have respect for all these brothers and sisters, it don’t matter what color we is. Somebody’s gotta step up and start doing something for us because people do come down here and feed us. I do work. I’m 51, I love everybody down here. It’s my job to make sure everybody get what they gotta get. I don’t care what color they is, man.”
“I’ve been homeless for three years, we all have been here for a number of years. It’s always hard to find food and clothes,” Maacela Davis says. “There’s at least 13 to 15 people from here to the end of 83. Sometime the cops come by. Some are good and some aren’t. I used to model at John Casablancas in Timonium. I danced ballet and played violin. I used to be very talented. But I lost my talent because of all these problems.”
“I’m homeless. I have gangrene on my feet. Every time I try to go to the hospital, to emergency, they send me out like this,” says Harrison Harvey. “Looks like no one’s trying to help me. It’s like they just want me to lay in this tent and die. I’ve been here four days and haven’t eaten nothing. Just some sweets but I’m a diabetic. I have COPD and high blood pressure. I get a check every month, but I can’t afford a place so I stay among the people.”
“I’ve been here for three and a half weeks now,” Shawn says. “My mom kicked me out because I was gay. That upset me so I’m out on my own. I’m trying to get back home.”
For more go to citypaper.com/camp83