North Texas

Railroad Officials Clearing Homeless Camp Near Busy Tracks

As temperatures drop, homeless shelters are filling up in North Texas. For those who can't get in, they often find their own way in makeshift camps.

But by Tuesday afternoon, one of the biggest camps in Fort Worth is set to be cleared out because it's too close to busy railroad tracks.

The group of tents sits on a hill by Interstate 35W and Lancaster Avenue.

"We have a community," Nicole Viganego said. "It's just like your local neighborhood."

But they're about to lose it, again.

"I don't want to have to leave again," Viganego said.

Their camp borders a set of Union Pacific railroad tracks. A railroad police officer came by the camp Monday with a warning.

"Told us we were going to get arrested if we did not leave the property within 24 hours," Viganego said.

A Union Pacific spokesperson said it's a safety concern, because of people crossing over the tracks.

"But we can't stand at that gate and make people not go across, because they're adults, too," Andrew Jamerson said. "We're not their guardians, we can't do that, and it's falling down on us."

The entire camp is packing up together, preparing to be split apart.

"We're still family. We still come together and look out for each other, because we're all we got," Jamerson said.

It's a familiar pattern to him.

"It's hard living a life like this when you're having people kicking you or making you jump from spot to spot to spot to spot. It takes a toll on a person like that," Jamerson said.

The folks in the camp all told NBC 5 they can't get into a shelter.

"Not one shelter, because they're all full to the max," Viganego said.

And they're on a wait list for public housing. So for now, they're on the move again.

"A week before Christmas, in the cold," Viganego said

A spokesperson for Union Pacific told NBC 5 they are sympathetic to the homeless in the camp and do not want to arrest anyone, but they need to put safety first. They're also working with the city to confirm whether the camp lies on city or railroad property, which will determine if the people in the camp are trespassing.

Nearly 2,000 people who are homeless are living in Tarrant County. It's estimated that more than 1,500 are sheltered, but nearly 400 are unsheltered.

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