By JOHN HOWELL Ged Carbone of Warwick Neck decided to extend his neighborhood walk last week to include some wooded trails off the Meadow View bike and walking path in hopes of finding a lost dog. Instead, he came across an encampment consisting of a
Ged Carbone of Warwick Neck decided to extend his neighborhood walk last week to include some wooded trails off the Meadow View bike and walking path in hopes of finding a lost dog. Instead, he came across an encampment consisting of a large and small tent.
Carbone said he felt a bit “awkward,” like he had walked into a stranger’s house unannounced. He asked the two people he encountered if they had seen a stray dog. They hadn’t. It was the first that Carbone learned people were camping in Warwick Neck.
His revelation wasn’t news to Jessica and Jason Case, who own Presto Strange O Coffee Shop on the Warwick Neck Avenue end of the walking path. Since early this summer they have seen people coming by bus, walking down the path carrying tents and other belongings. Last Friday they spotted a woman driving a pickup drop off two men who headed down the path.
They have had interactions with the squatters, who they categorized as a group of about six people, males and females in their 20s and at least two men in their 40s or older. On one occasion Jason looked out the store window to find two men “dressed in baby doll clothes” looking in. He didn’t say anything and they moved on. After several plastic bread racks disappeared from behind the store, he ventured to one of the encampments where he found they had been used to bridge a swampy area. He let the campers know the racks had cost him money and he would like them returned. The racks haven’t come back.
Jessica said some of the younger campers stopped in to buy coffee, ostensibly to use the restroom. After being in the bathroom for an extended period, she knocked on the door to see if they were alright. They then left.
Then a young woman, believed to be one of the group, was found lying on the lawn of a nearby State Street residence. Police were called. The Cases don’t have a follow-up to the story. Police believe she was intoxicated.
Police have visited the site several times. Some officers frequent the coffee shop and when Jessica conveyed her concerns over the activity, she said a fleet of cruisers showed up in an impressive display.
Police were back on Friday in response to Carbone, who emailed his findings to the Beacon. Responding to an email from the Beacon about the Warwick Neck tents and an encampment under the Interstate 295 bridge as it crosses Route 2, Col. Bradford Connor said, “We are aware of the encampment under 295. Our Mental Health Crisis Response Team performed outreach to the two individuals living there to try and get them the appropriate services. As is often the case, help was refused. Because this is DOT property, they were notified and they have informed us that RISP and DOT will be handling the situation.”
Capt. Joel Thomas, of the community services division, said Tuesday that police have responded on multiple occasions to Warwick Neck as well as encampments at the Knight Campus of CCRI, behind the former Toys R Us on East Avenue, behind Shaw’s Market and at locations alongside state highways.
He doesn’t see the number of people choosing to live outside as higher than previous years, recalling how for an extended period several people were camped out in the reeds between the end of the seawall parking lot and the boat ramp in Oakland Beach.
“These little tent cities are not new,” he said.
Thomas said most of the people encountered have chosen this lifestyle. Usually, Caitlin Gomes, the department’s mental health liaison, meets with the people to assess their condition and make recommendations on where they can find help. “She has the expertise and the connections,” Thomas said of Gomes, who is employed by the Providence Center and works with the department under contract.
“They come from a variety of backgrounds,” Thomas said of the vagrants. He is not aware of any juveniles, which he said would be an entirely different matter.
Although not receptive to assistance, Thomas said the people are not combative and generally move along. He said the department has been in contact with the DOT and that in the near future police would be giving DOT personnel a tour of locations along state roads where they have found people camping.
Mayor Frank Picozzi was aware of the tents in Warwick Neck from social media reports as well as neighbors contacting his office. He said agencies providing assistance have been notified. Told of the disappearance of the bread racks from Presto Strange O, he advised that residents contact police rather than attempt to make matters in their own hands.
A visit to one of the Meadow View sites by Beacon reporters on Monday morning found a tent in a wooded clearing but no one present.
Connor said Tuesday night that police returned to the sites and were working to relocate people. He voiced his surprise at the quality of the tents, which he said appeared to be new.
“These are expensive,” he said