Under the Hat: A Town within a Town - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Under the Hat: A Town within a Town

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Investigators with both the Erie Bureau of Police and the Erie County Health Department did an extraordinary thing this week.

They did nothing.

This all started when reporter John Last started looking into reports of not enough beds at area shelters leading to several tent cities springing up in the area.

Unfortunately, homelessness isn't anything new here but an organized collection of people living together in the woods is.

So, not knowing exactly what he expected to find, John set out to a somewhat remote stretch of woods near the tracks off West 14th Street.

What he found was literally a town within a town; a Tent City.

There was no sign of sanitation or garbage issues among the camping tents; in fact the area around some of them had even been decorated with personal touches.

Even more amazing, one of the neighbors invited John in, sat down and talked to him about the economics that led him away from permanent structures and to this place.

Naturally, after the story aired the reaction followed.

The police told us that they were aware of Tent City but with no reports of trouble officers had no reason to get involved (at least not until it became public knowledge).

The following day an inspector from the Health Department came out to look things over.

That led to some concern in the newsroom that one guy's good hearted gesture to speak honestly with John could lead to everybody getting tossed.

But the police said that the property is owned by the CSX Railroad and barring a complaint from the landowner what was happening is legally no different than the neighborhood kids pitching tents in your backyard.

The Health Department inspector then agreed with John's assessment on sanitation and garbage, saying that with no health issues there is no need for action on their side either.

So two separate agencies this week took the bold step of taking no action at all.

For now, at least, that looks like the right call.


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