“We’re following along and getting it done,” Elkton Mayor Rob Alt said this week, when asked about the town’s process for clearing encampments of homeless people.
Elkton’s town parks have been used by some in the county’s homeless population for camps. The dense, lush growth in secluded areas of town parks have kept the encampments from public view. The town focused on Marina Park and two areas in Meadow Park.
Conditions in these encampments have deteriorated to the point where the mayor said they posed significant public health concerns.
“These camps, they were littering and defecating – it was terrible,” Mayor Alt said. “It was truly a safety issue.”
The town gave the residents of the encampments 72 hours notice prior to them being closed, he said. This was achieved by posting notices in and around the parks to allow the residents enough time to gather their belongings andlook for alternate arrangements. Alt said numerous organizations that deal with the homeless population have mobilized to offer services.
Surveys of the homeless population have shown that a significant number of people are not from this area.
“We are offering free rides to people so they can get back to their own communities,” Alt said.
This week, the mayor spoke at the county’s Economic Development Commission and town officials discussed the issue during Wednesday night’s town meeting.
The mayor said that when town officials entered the encampments, they found them to have few residents. When town employees came to clear the sites, they were empty, he reported.
Now that the squatters have been evicted, the town is going to keep the parks free of campers.
“We’re going to be on a steady patrol,” Alt said.
To make it easier to monitor all areas of parks, there have been paths established through the undeveloped park areas to allow it to be patrolled, the mayor said.
“What we are doing is giving our parks back to our community,” Alt said.
At the same time, town officials will continue to work with organizations that serve the homeless population.
Alt said the public can be involved in this issue.
“People that care about our unsheltered community can give donations so those organizations can continue to help,” Mayor Alt said.