Days are numbered for ‘tent city’ in Bucks County

    Inhabitants of a Bucks County “tent city” have been told to pack their bags. The owner of the plot of land in Bristol they call home has given the group until Monday to make way for a construction project.

    Clyde Beury carefully makes his way down a muddy path toward the tent city. It’s through a peaceful patch of woods filled with trees covered in bright green leaves.

    “We are oh maybe 150 yards as the crow flies off of Route 13, a busy highway, not that far from I-95 — which you came up on from Center City — and you got the birds singing and you’re really out here in the woods! Watch your step,” warned Beury. ” You are out in the country, that is a skunk that you smell!”

    Beury works with a group called The Way Home, a coalition of faith communities that are working to find permanent, sustainable housing for Bucks County’s homeless.  He’s gained a reputation among many of the residents.

    “I’ve been working with them for about the last 18 months but in particular Thursday is bagel day so they’re going to want to know where the bagels are!” said Beury.

    Beury says he was impressed when he started showing up with the donated bagels: instead of trying to grab them all, residents let others know food had arrived.

    Jim’s tent is near the edge of the camp. Out front there’s a bike chained to a tree and there’s a small ring for a fire. Inside the tent there’s a bed and a John Grisham book folded open.

    “I was a welder. Got laid off in 2009. Thirteen years at the same company in Langhorne,” he said. “Never expected this. I’ve been up here – from living in my car to up here. This is like a little community, really. You have your little friends and everybody’s neighbors, everybody helps each other.”

    He says he’s looking for a job and he’s not sure where he’ll go next week. Clyde Beury speaks up.

    “Okay this group here Bucks County Opportunity Council – they’re making funds available for housing. If you can fill one of these out,” asked Beury.

    Beury says some residents are depressed about the eviction and don’t want to talk about it. Then he starts talking to a tall man named John, who’s passing through.

    “I’m a little afraid of the people that might come back here. I don’t know what goes on back here and in situations like this, sometimes it’s better to be a loner because you got people that got alcohol and drug problems,” he said.

    John says he didn’t want to get caught up in something that could lead to him getting injured. He’s physically disabled and knows he would have a hard time defending himself.

    “So I went over there and found a tree and slept there. It got cold and I ended up hanging up at the diner and it started raining,” he said.

    He says he has family: an ex-wife, an adult daughter, a grandson, but he simply has nowhere to stay right now.

    “I am an intelligent man and I can do a lot of things if I didn’t have the physical disability,” he said. “I have two years of college. I can do a lot of things. I worked in a sewing factory. I can make clothes. It’s that unfortunately the economy’s really bad.”

    A dumpster sits at the entrance to the path leading to tent city. Beury says the developer put it there for anything the camp’s residents don’t want to take with them. There’s not much inside. Beury says the group will make a big push over the weekend to help residents move out.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.