Homeless camp raising concerns

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Dozens of people sleeping in a makeshift encampment are being evicted.  The homeless camp is in a thicket of woods in Henrico, off Chamberlayne, near Azalea Avenue. 12 on Your Side looked into a homeowner's complaint, which lead to an amazing discovery.

It's amazing the fact that this homeless camp existed for nearly two years, a short distance behind people's homes, and nobody knew about it.

It's a sprawling open air camp. A crude yet elaborate setup on 18 acres of densely wooded private property, off Chamberlayne and Azalea Avenues. Campers pack their lives into shopping carts by day, some after pan handling on the street, return to the makeshift camp where they have the amenities of home to sleep, cook, and relax. One camper has a medical toilet. Another, a gate separating his space from others.

"We want to make sure our community is safe for our children," said Amy Anderson.

Amy Anderson called 12 on Your Side. She stumbled upon the camp while taking a nature walk with her kids.

"Once I found out, I'm looking making sure everything is ok. Nobody's in my backyard," she said.

It borders the property of unsuspecting homeowners. Amy says she's the only one willing to speak publicly.

"They hide behind trees so they won't get noticed but you can actually see them, with their feet," Amy said.

We found one of the homeless men who was told to leave pan handling on Chamberlayne Avenue.

"I've been living back there for 6 yrs and I ain't never had no problem," he said.

We found him with his dog, panhandling.

"Yes, I did get made to move but I'm still there cause if you find a homeless shelter that will take a dog in. I'll be there," the man said.

The homeless were given notice to leave the end of March, says the real estate manager for 'Jones Realty and Construction Corporation.' There's a no trespassing order and signs are posted.

"From here on out anybody caught out here they will be arrested," said real estate manager Kristy Cosley. "It's a hard thing to do to make sure everybody has somewhere to go."

Some left. Some linger. Others left but returned. Now, the site cleanup is not just about humanely moving people but, removing mounds and mounds of trash left behind.

"I'm thinking of summer time when it gets hot and they can smell the funk, odors, it's a health risk," said Amy.

Property owners became aware of the camp, last year. The real estate manager tells one homeless person fired a BB gun at another. Police descended on the camp and steps began then to move the homeless off private property.

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