Homeless tent camp borders downtown Fort Worth

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by CHRIS HAWES

WFAA

Posted on January 10, 2011 at 11:46 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 11 at 8:47 PM

FORT WORTH — Stripped of their leaves, winter trees have revealed a secret in Fort Worth.

Drivers just outside of downtown have spotted a growing tent city — homeless people who have been camping illegally on private land for months.

They've had help from local religious volunteers, but now that the secret is out, they have been told they have to go.

So far, the homeless encampment remains.

Anjanette Collazo, 23, showed us something she's hidden from friends, classmates and even family members: The tent that she calls home.

"I hide it very well," said Collazo, who is training to be a pharmacy technician. She craves a job and a real home.

Collazo is desperate. She's pregnant.

"This is real life, and this does happen," she said. "Everybody's not bad; everybody's not out here because it's their fault. Some of us are kind of forced in this situation and others aren't."

Collazo's boyfriend admits he served 10 years in prison, and says that's the reason he can't find a job.

Their tent is one of nearly 60 outside of downtown Fort Worth, off Lancaster Avenue. Some have been here a year or more, through heat waves and snowstorms. How do they cope?

"Just get up under your blankets and get as warm as you can," said Terry Waits.

But now, they have to go, the upshot of good intentions from good samaritans. They brought food, blankets and better tents to the encampment.

When word got out, the camp got so big that Fort Worth Code Compliance officers spotted it from the road.

The city has given the property owner, a private company, 10 days to dismantle the camp, saying it's a health and safety threat.

Area shelters stand ready to take the tent-dwellers in.

"We allow any homeless person to come into our doors," said Toby Owen of Presbyterian Night Shelter.

But on a night that temperatures were forecast to plunge into the teens, the illegal campers said they'll find another location to pitch their tents before going to a shelter.

"Those are much worser than out here," Collazo said.

The homeless camp residents are trespassing on the land they're using. The property owner has the right to call in the police at any time for help in moving them.

So far, that has not happened.

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com

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