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5 things we learned by visiting Hamilton’s homeless tent city

Many residents have responded with concerns and questions regarding a Journal-News story detailing the growing number of homeless in the Hamilton Plaza on Route 4, where a large number of homeless people have created a tent city for shelter.

MORE: An inside look at ‘The Hill’: Hamilton’s tent city highlights struggles, but officials hope for progress

“The Hill,” as it’s known, is a series of tattered tents that form a homeless camp behind the railroad tracks that run behind the plaza.

Here are some observations gleaned from the visit to “Tent City.”

MORE: Resident on one-man crusade to clean up Hamilton’s Combs Park

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Churches and benevolent organizations are reaching out

Two people living in the homeless camp, Lillie Nelson and Doug Miller, said that churches and several organizations have been delivering blankets, clothes and food, especially during the brutal cold days that have marked this winter.

“They have helped very much,” Miller said.

Tents are set up in a homeless camp behind Hamilton Plaza shopping center Thursday, March 22. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF (Staff Writer)

What “Tent City” looks like

It is a series of tattered tents that form a homeless camp behind the railroad tracks that run behind the Hamilton Plaza. One resident of the camp pointed to a growing trash problem in the area and blamed it on kids who run through the area and “party and leave trash.” There is an area that is set up to build a fire and cook. It includes some well-organized elements involved in any community.

Lillie Nelson cooks soup on a propane grill at a homeless camp behind Hamilton Plaza shopping center Thursday, March 22. Nelson has lived in the camp for nearly a year. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF (Staff Writer)

There are drugs and substance abuse issues

It is a problem, several of the camp residents say. “I see it out here and see the street walkers,” Miller said. He noted that mental health issues also are a problem, but that many in the camp look out for each other and try to get help for anybody who needs it.

Problems in the plaza

Some store owners have said that the growing number of homeless in the camp has called problems for retailers. There are issues, they say, with people using the bathroom in the parking lot and panhandling customers for money.

Residents in the camp acknowledged that there are some people who cause problems, but Nelson said that most of the people there don’t cause problems and just suffer from homelessness.

How to get involved to help the homeless

Various churches and organizations like the Salvation Army work with the homeless on a regular basis and Hamilton now has a task force that deals with the issue of homelessness.

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