City’s homeless find shelter in Watertown’s tent city prepped for those displaced by apartment condemnation

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 3:19 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A new problem at Watertown’s tent city. The camp was set up last week as a place for displaced tenants to stay after their apartment building was condemned.

But as we found out Monday, free shelter and food are now attracting the city’s homeless.

At dawn Monday, temperatures dipped into the 40′s.

Some of the tenants, forced out when 661 Factory Street was condemned a week ago, slumbered in tents. And there were some, not from the building, but drawn in simply because it was a place to stay.

One woman found herself between homes. And was sent to the tent city.

“And so it was kind of a weird, for me, of finding a place to go,” said Catherine Melhuish, who crashed in the tent city.

The county’s community services director says the population of the tent city is now a mix of the displaced tenants and the city’s homeless.

“Unfortunately, this has created a destination for some of our other homeless population that hasn’t been accounted for or accommodated in the past. So, we really have to figure out how to shut things down here and make sure everybody’s safe in the end,” said Jefferson County Community Services Director Tim Ruetten.

But the new mix of the tent city’s population make that tough.

“We’re encouraging them to enroll with social services and see what is available. You know, some people who are here simply do not want to engage in public assistance in any way,” said Ruetten.

Reutten estimated there were 10-15 people still living in the tents as of Monday.

The hope is to have them all placed, and the tent camp closed by midweek.

Meanwhile, the Factory Street building’s owner tells 7 News she is not sure if it’s worth it to save the building from its bug problems and the electrical and plumbing hazards cited by the city.

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