BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Homeless people camped beneath Birmingham's overpasses and railways were warned to move out before the city evicts them this week.
Don Lupo, director of the Mayor's Office of Citizens Assistance, said the city is responding to requests from railroad officials and the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Lupo said highway and railroad officials want the people removed because they are trespassing on private property.
Violence, petty thefts and unsanitary conditions in the camps also are factors in the decision to remove them, Lupo said.
Many of the people living on the property are not accused of offenses that warrant arrest, Lupo said.
Peter and Greer McCoy said the city is moving them from their downtown home of about two years under Interstate 65 near First Avenue North.
On May 1, Greer McCoy and the Rev. Lawton Higgs, pastor emeritus of Church of the Reconciler, went before the Birmingham City Council to talk about the removal and the lack of services to help those being displaced.
The McCoys, who have been married for eight years, have experienced job loss and health problems.
A structure Peter McCoy made from old billboard and real estate signs, discarded furniture and other donated items is home for the couple and a 9-week-old puppy named Lady.
"He said when we got married, he was going to build me a house, and he did," Greer McCoy said.
The quarters are more elaborate than others nearby, mostly because of Peter McCoy's background building similar huts along a bayou in New Orleans and his engineering training from a Job Corps program in Texas.
It looks like an aged mobile home on the outside. Inside are a mattress and box springs on the ground, a dry sink, a battery-operated television and a homemade heating unit. The structure has a screened-in den addition and a partitioned room with a portable toilet. An old metal sign pole supports the structure.
The McCoys say shelters will not accept a married couple who want to live together. Shelters are organized to separate people who stay in them based on gender, Greer said.
Higgs said shelters and programs most often offer help for people who are mentally ill or substance abusers needing help.
The McCoys don't fall into those categories, he said. The couple have no family in the city.
"These are the people who fall through the cracks," Higgs said. "They do not want to be separated."
he McCoys and neighbor Frank Watts, who lives in a more meager hut across the field, say the police and railroad security used to check on them to make sure they were all right. The relationship has changed, Watts said.
"I couldn't figure it out," he said. "It wasn't nothing we did different. I keep it clean every day, but I can't debate with the police."
So, where are these people suppossed to go? If they are moved from one area to another, it will only be a very short matter of time before someone else starts bithcing about them being there. Why not try and help them find a decent place to call home? It isn't like the spaces underneath railway and highway overpasses are big tourist draws or anything, so what difference does it make to the railroad and highway folks if some poor, homeless, human being makes camp underneath? Whatever happend to putting ouselves in someone elses shoes? Why can't the rail and highway folks offer to help with a long term solution for these people instead of just demanding that law enforcement and/or entities thereof remove them?
And...on the subject of homelesness....Wow can you imagine what it is like to not have a place to go to and lay your head down at night? Can any of my readers imagine what a horrible existance it must be to live under a fucking bridge? I can't. I really can't imagine that. I have had some hard times in my life but I've never been close to being homeless.
And before anyone asks...YES I do give money to homeless people when I encounter them. Don't even say, "Well they are just going to buy beer or drugs with it" because, if anyone on earth needs a beer and a joint it's a homeless person.