Latest Homeless Camp Eviction Has Group Calling for Change

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DES MOINES, Iowa - The City of Des Moines brought in heavy machinery Friday morning to clear out a large homeless camp.

The camp is located at SW 14th Street and Tuttle Street; city workers used a bulldozer to remove waste and items left behind, but officials say they gave the "residents" of the camp ample time to clear out.

"We approached them about six weeks ago and let them know we had received some complaints and would be evicting the camp," said Phil Delafield, Director of Community Development with the city.

Delafield says his department doesn't "sniff out" homeless camps to evict; rather, they are forced to comply with city code once a complaint comes in. This particular camp is rather large, he says, and city workers brought in street outreach groups ahead of time to help the homeless relocate.

"We're just relocating the problem," said Ethan Eiler, a volunteer with Joppa Outreach. 

Joppa has proposed a solution that they say would "break the cycle" on relocating the homeless just to another camp in the city, only to be evicted again: a community of tiny homes, completely funded by Joppa donations, would serve as a "transitional housing community" for those struggling with homelessness.

For one homeless resident of this camp, Tim, there's nowhere else to go.

"I've lived here since September," he said. "Even in the winter. I don't know where I'll go."

Joppa Outreach director, Joe Stevens, says a month ago, about 50 homeless individuals lived at this camp. Last week, there were about 35, and today, as the city cleared the camp out, there were still 15 there.

"We do our best to give them notice, but some just refuse to leave," Delafield said.

Delafield argues the tiny home proposal doesn't go far enough to get to the root of the problem, and that the real solution to help these homeless citizens is to connect them with the appropriate services to get their lives on track.

WATCH: Joppa Outreach Proposes "Tiny Houses" to End Homeless Camp Problem in Des Moines