The last week of January brought with it the end of the camp and Tent City. On Jan. 27, in the middle of the afternoon Union Pacific came out and started their sweep of the area and handing out citations to anybody on the property. Most panicked not knowing where to go or what to do. The scramble to get out came earlier than expected.
The situation was, for lack of a better word, hell. The camps supporters were able to get a U-Haul truck so the camp could pack its belongings and have a place to store them. The truck was going nowhere in particular, a moving truck with nowhere to move to. Founders Shane Troll, Brittany Garza, and Tim Harris began discussions with supporters about a place to go for at least the night.
“You know, I was already homeless,” Garza said in an interview with CBS 19. “I didn’t think it could get much worse.”
Then, a blessing came from an anonymous donor in Tyler. Twelve rooms were purchased for the camp and others who came along at America’s Best Value Inn located at the corner of loop 323 and U.S. 69 North. There, discussions of the next area to move to started.
The place that seemed fitting was located near the existing Tent City and off of Union Pacific property. The camp had support from Tyler Steel to allow the camp to stay on their property located right behind their facility. But, the City of Tyler decided that they would fine the business if any such actions took place. To prevent the fines, the camp decided not to go to the location and find a new place.
Sleeping on a bed at the hotel was amazing after sleeping on cots. The feeling of what happens next was overwhelming. The rooms were available for a week and in that time four campers were able to acquire bus tickets to be with family.
“Thanks to PS 91,” said Justin Brower, “we have our tickets home.”
Traveling to Ohio, Alabama, and San Antonio, the members were able to get out of their situation and start the journey of making a somewhat normal life elsewhere.
Others were able to find jobs and start saving up for a place to live that wasn’t a tent. Shane gained employment at a construction company and Brittany now works at a hotel in Tyler.
Eleven members of the camp moved in with Angie George, a woman who worked at the hotel. She took them in once the rooms were no longer available. Charging $100 a head for rent campers now had a place to stay and Brittany and Shane began their journey toward marriage. On March 2nd, 2014 the two will tie the knot at Church Under the Bridge located under the Gentry Bridge near downtown Tyler.
The site that once housed Camp PS 91 and numerous tents that occupied it is now stating to grow over with vegetation. Starting to take the form of what it once was, a section of woods that no one gave a second thought about.