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Northampton clears out homeless camp said to be abandoned off Texas Road 

  •  Bagged Narcan seen at a homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton on Jan. 30, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Brenda Valle talks about a homeless camp in her neighborhood off Texas Road in Northampton on Jan. 30, 2018. She was there hoping to find a sentimental item taken from her plot at the community gardens last summer but she did not find it. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Brenda Valle talks about a homeless camp in her neighborhood off Texas Road in Northampton on Jan. 30, 2018. She was there hoping to find a sentimental item taken from her plot at the community gardens last summer but she did not find it. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton pictured Jan. 30, 2018, a week before it was cleared out by the Northampton Department of Public Works workers on Tuesday, Feb. 6. City officials said the camp had been abandoned. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton, as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A homeless camp off Texas  Road in Northampton as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Brenda Valle, a nearby resident, visits a homeless camp on Texas Road Jan. 30, 2018. She was looking for an umbrella that had been stolen. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS PHOTOS

  •  Trash seen at a homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton on Jan. 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton, as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  •  A note on cardboard seen at a homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton on Jan. 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A homeless camp off Texas Road in Northampton, as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A homeless camp off Texas road in Northampton, as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • View of a homeless camp off Texas Road from the balcony of Young Roofing Company, as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • View of a homeless camp off Texas Road from the balcony of Young Roofing Company, as seen on Jan. 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



For the Gazette
Thursday, February 08, 2018

​​​​​​NORTHAMPTON — The Department of Public Works cleared out a camp recently occupied by homeless people off Texas Road Tuesday morning, though city officials said the compound had been abandoned at the time it was eliminated.

The camp was located on a small, wooded patch of city property at the end of Texas Road between Young Roofing Co. and the Mill River. The Gazette had been inquiring about the status of camp with city officials in the days leading up the DPW’s action.

Despite repeated complaints from area businesses and neighbors, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said he was hesitant to remove the people living in the camp because of humanitarian concerns.

“Yes, these folks were trespassing,” Narkewicz said. “But considering the weather and the harsh conditions ... am I going to take away their belongings and shelter in the middle of a January cold snap? No.”

Narkewicz said that after the camp came to his attention, the city deployed social workers to reach out to individuals living there.

“We wanted to try to determine who they were and try to find resources for them,” Narkewicz said. “If we removed them right away, where would they go? We needed to try to address the underlying issues and I needed to know what the plan was going to be.”

The social workers were never able to make contact with the individuals living at the camp, Narkewicz said, but he said they determined that the camp had been abandoned recently and that no possessions of value had been left behind.

During a visit to the area on Jan. 30, a Gazette reporter saw two tents, large piles of garbage, empty alcohol containers, Narcan nasal spray containers and two buckets filled with what appeared to be human feces at the site.

Also at the scene was Brenda Valle, a nearby resident who had gone to the camp to see if her recently stolen umbrella might be there after learning about the camp through news reports. Valle said she was concerned about pollution at the site.

“I think it’s awful ... there’s just so much trash here and I think they’re just ruining this whole area here with everything they’ve left. It’s not a happy place,” she said.

Valle said her own son experienced homelessness and also expressed sympathy for those who lived in the camp.

“It makes me sad that somebody has to live like that,” she said. “You know I’m in my nice warm home and you think of everybody else here shivering. It’s just not a way to live.”

She added, “I don’t think there’s enough places for them to go. And this isn’t living, it isn’t living at all. It’s sad. Its very, very sad.”

Police response

Since 2016, Northampton police have responded to the area for a wide range of calls, from trespassing, assault, investigations of suspicious or wanted people, property checks, outside fires and medical or mental health calls, according to a Gazette review of police call logs.

Since November 2017, city police officers responded to 23 calls to Texas Road, including a Dec. 27 stabbing incident at the camp that left one man, Jesse Grant, seriously injured. On Dec. 28, Joshua M. Fidalgo, 25, pleaded not guilty in Northampton District Court to a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in connection with that incident. Fidalgo’s attorney argued in court that his client was acting in self-defense.

A Level 3 sex offender, Charles Jay Cummings, 41, registered his address with the Northampton Police Department as a “homeless camp off Texas Road,” on Jan. 27. His previous listed address was “couch hopping” in Greenfield. Cummings was convicted of two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person aged 14 or older and two counts of rape and abuse of a child. The convictions are from 2000 and 1993.

Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper said that seeing homeless camps in the winter is “atypical.”

“Typically these pop up in the warmer months,” Kasper said, adding that some homeless individuals she’s spoken to don’t like the shelter environment, and sometimes choose camps because they provide some sense of home.

Kasper also said that drugs, alcohol and mental health issues often play a factor.

Still, Kasper said, she found the conditions at the camp off Texas Road to be very troubling.

“It’s certainly a humanitarian issue,” the chief said. “I’ve been on this job 20 years, and when I go home to my house during the winter, I don’t think there’s a night that goes by where I don’t think about the people out there in the community that are sleeping outside.”

Kasper said the police department only knew of two homeless camps within the city. When camps are on private property, it is up to the property owner to call police and file a trespassing report.

The state’s sex offender registry requires people to list where they sleep at night, according to Kasper. Police conduct audits to make sure individuals are at the address they have registered, she said.

There are five Level 3 sex offenders, including Cummings, on the Sex Offender Registry Board’s website who have listed themselves as homeless — three people are listed at the Grove Street Inn in Northampton and one person has listed his address on Main Street. Level 3 means the person has been deemed as having a high risk of reoffending and poses a high degree of danger to the public.

State statute bars using the registry information to commit a crime against an offender or engage in illegal discrimination or harassment of an offender and is punished by not more than 2½ years in a jail or by a fine of not more than $1,000 or both.

Gazette Staff Writer Emily Cutts contributed to this report. She can be reached a ecutts@gazettenet.com.

 Editor’s Note: The headline and photo captions on this story were changed to clarify their meaning at 11 a.m. on Feb. 8.