Residents of a tent encampment on W. Chapel Hill Street in Durham, N.C., along with community supporters, held a press conference and rally on June 8 to demand that they not be forcibly evicted by the police.
According to a statement from the residents: “Last Friday, on June 1, we received a letter from Captain Reitz notifying us that we would all be evicted within seven days. We have nowhere to go. The shelters are full and all have waiting lists. Many of us do not feel safe staying in a shelter. We feel safe living in our tents and wish to remain here until we find more permanent free housing.” Durham currently faces a huge gentrification and evictions crisis, with more than 900 people getting evicted every month.
The tent encampment residents released a statement demanding that the state Department of Transportation and the city of Durham:
Do not evict us until we are found permanent, free housing.
Do not cut down the trees in our encampment. The trees keep us shaded from the elements, especially the hot sun during the summer, plus they provide us an important environmental buffer from the highway.
Provide us with a few trash receptacles and provide us weekly collection service, like all other residencies in Durham, so that we can keep our encampment clean.
Transition the old Durham Police headquarters, just across the street from our encampment, into affordable housing and provide us all free housing in the building.
“Allow us to be — we just want to live. We are trying to get by best we can and get back into society,” said Sandra McCuller, an encampment resident.
“I don’t want to be evicted. I don’t want to live in a shelter and worry about being a victim,” stated resident Edward Prettyman.
A statement from the United Residents of the Chapel Hill Street Tent Encampment reads in part: “This is our home. We live here. The state is not using this land. All of us have lived here between four months and a year. We have a trusting, strong community of residents. We all support each other in various ways in feeding ourselves and staying safe. … There is already a housing and eviction crisis in Durham. Do not add us to that tragic list.”
Durham activists have set up a rapid response group to mobilize in case the police show up at the encampment at any time, and to keep public pressure and actions going to deter them from evicting the residents. Supporters are urged to contact North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary James Trogdon at [email protected] and 919-707-2800. Tell him, “Don’t evict the Durham tent encampment!” #DefendDurham #HousingisaRight #stopevictionsnow