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Homeless man says he lost important belongings when city cleared out homeless camp on Texas Road

  • Marty Mirabal Jr. talks about his time living in the homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Marty Mirabal Jr. talks about his time living in the homeless camp off Texas Rd. in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Marty Mirabal Jr. talks about his time living in the homeless camp off Texas Rd. in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Marty Mirabal Jr. talks about his time living in the homeless camp off Texas Rd. in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



For the Gazette
Friday, February 09, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — A piece of Marty Mirabal Jr.’s tattered shirt is all that remains at the site of a camp recently occupied by homeless people off Texas Road.

Mirabal, 29, said he lost two tents and other items of value after the Department of Public Works cleared out the area on Tuesday. Other items Mirabal said he lost after the clearing include his blankets, a bike trailer, a cast iron skillet, a hiking backpack and a first-aid kit.

After receiving a call Monday from Lyn Simmons, chief of staff for Mayor David Narkewicz, warning him that the camp was going to be cleared out, Mirabal said he pleaded with city officials to preserve his tents and other belongings.

City officials determined that the camp was abandoned “based on the status of the site,” Simmons said Thursday, adding that “the tents were not in any shape to provide adequate shelter.”

Mirabal, however, said that he, his girlfriend and their pet albino rat had stayed at the camp as recently as Sunday and that the camp served as a valuable resource to the couple.

Simmons said she spoke to DPW officials about trying to preserve Mirabal’s tents, but was told the tents ripped during the removal process because they were frozen to the ground. She also said that to the best of her knowledge, there was no bike trailer at the sight when the DPW crews cleared the area.

“We certainly weren’t trying to take anything of value from him,” Simmons said.

Mirabal acknowledged that the city had given him advanced notice, but said he wished they waited longer before clearing the camp.

“There were a lot of things there that were salvageable,” Mirabal said. “I would have cleaned everything myself but everything was frozen to the ground. I was just waiting for some warmer weather.”

Mirabal said he lived full-time at the camp from October 2017 to Dec. 20, 2017, when he was incarcerated for a probation violation. He returned after his release on Jan. 16 and said he found that the site had not been taken care of by the other occupants who had arrived at the camp.

According to Mirabal, about three or four other people had been staying at the camp in recent months. He said he understands that some people were concerned about the occasional noise and messy conditions at the camp.

“The place was trashed when I got back,” Mirabal said. “Before I went to jail I worked hard to keep the camp together. I picked up garbage from previous years. I like things to be clean, I want the woods to be clean.”

A Gazette report Thursday detailed squalid conditions at the camp prior to the city moving in to clear the area. The area around the camp off Texas Road had been frequented by police on nearly two dozen occasions over the past three months for a variety of calls. It was the scene of an alleged, non-fatal stabbing in December, according to police and court records.

Mirabal said he doesn’t know what’s next for him and his girlfriend. He said they are going to take it day-to-day. He said he personally has no issue staying in the city’s homeless shelters, but because his girlfriend suffers from alcoholism and mental health issues, she struggles to function in the shelter environment.

Mirabal said that living at the camp in the winter was very difficult, but he said he worked hard to maintain the camp because it provided him with a place of belonging.

“I didn’t leave when the police first told us to because I felt strongly that that’s our place to live. We have nowhere else to go,” he said.

Mirabal said he was devastated when the camp was destroyed on Tuesday.

“That place was a great thing to have,” he said. “No matter what happened, at least we always had that place ... I spent all day Tuesday crying. It was a really hard day.”