City demolishes homeless camp under bridge near KARM

Published: Dec. 4, 2017 at 3:21 PM EST
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Phillip Carmichael has no roof, no doors and no windows, but his tent is the only place he calls home.

"I'm trying to get out of the gutter," said Carmichael. "I'm trying to get out of this mess."

The life Carmichael and his neighbors know on these streets was bulldozed.

"I mean where are we going to go? We don't know," said Carmichael. "We're going to be scattered out all over Knoxville, more than likely; it's depressing."

Knoxville police officers cleared out tents and other living areas on both public and private property Thursday. It's the only spaces some homeless people in Knoxville had to themselves.

"We was told that we are to get our things, personal belongings and get them out, that we are no longer to stay here," said Brad Cochran, homeless Tennessean.

After giving the homeless prior notice, city leaders told Local 8 News crews wipe out spaces every three to six weeks. They said it's a way to get ride of hazardous material like rotten food, needles, even human waste.

For people like Cochran, those spaces are shelter.

"When you have tents, it's like, we're a family; we got a house," said Cochran. "It's a big blessing to have a tent with the wind and when it rains, when it's storming."

Now the storm in Cochran and Carmichael's life is finding somewhere else to rest at night. Carmichael said the Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries is not an option.

"It's like a jail," said Carmichael. "People steal everything you got, it's nasty, there's bed lice, there's everything in that shelter."

While the city wipes out spaces to keep Knoxville beautiful, the ones who live there said workers are taking the only place to themselves.

"Setbacks like this really just knock you down," said Carmichael.