HomeNewsTyler’s Homeless: Camp PS 91

Tyler’s Homeless: Camp PS 91

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Editors note: Favian Quezada lived in Tent City and with Camp PS 91. This is the first part of a three part series about his experiences with the residents and time spent homeless.

Walking across the railroad tracks in the Historic Cotton District near downtown Tyler, there is a thicket of woods where a community, unseen by the public, once lived. Living their lives as normal as possible the people there considered themselves not homeless, but blessed.

I came across the area and people working on a story and mini documentary, about One Night Without A Home, an event held on Nov. 19, 2013 at Bergfeld Park to raise awareness about homelessness. Meeting the people and the group, I decided that I needed to film more than a mini documentary and started production on a full-length documentary.

Formed by residents Shane Troul, Brittany Garza and Tim Harris, Camp PS 91, a homeless mission camp set up for the homeless by the homeless. With the help of anonymous donors and churches in the area the camp started receiving the necessities needed to survive the elements and began passing them along the trail to the others.

“We stayed here (Tent City) for probably like a month,” said Garza, “and Tim showed up. Tim’s a good friend of ours we’ve known him since we got here he was at the Salvation Army same time we were. And, he told us he had a guy who was really interested in helping and he didn’t know how to help, but he had the means.”

Staying in the back of Tent City all three got sick. For the next two weeks they ended up staying at a friends house until they got better. Going back to their tent they had a mess to clean up, the rains flooded out their camp and mud was everywhere.

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Deciding to switch locations they started gathering more tents and donations began pouring in. With more supporters and donations coming in, Camp PS 91 started its work helping the residents of Tent City.

“We just put out that we were doing this,” said Garza, “you know we could help if anybody wanted it.”

After meeting the camp, I brought along CBS photographer AJ Vega to help me begin filming. After his experience, KYTX CBS 19 met with the camp and began running their own stories on the camp. The camp caught attention and more and more news stations began to take notice.

In December it seemed everything they had worked for was crashing down. A drunken man had passed out on the tracks and a resident of Tent City pulled the man off the tracks and called 911. This lead to Union Pacific Police coming out and investigating along with Tyler PD. Union Pacific was made aware of the residents and began their two-month long process of vacating everyone off the property.

Before there was no more Tent City or Camp PS 91, AJ and I decided that while we could film all day and we truly could not understand what we are filming unless we became homeless ourselves. And on Jan. 1, 2014, we became homeless for the full month of January.

After arriving, we began to unpack into our tent, that had been generously donated. Tim Harris also lent us his propane heater for the night, since the temperature was going to drop. THe wind blew most of the night and so did the heat. THen I was awakened by the worst news.

“Favian,” AJ said, “the heat’s out.”

After about five unsuccessful attempts at relighting the heater we crawled into our sleeping bags and tried to sleep.

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After surveying the night, we woke at 7 a.m. for breakfast at the Salvation Army. Walking into the cafeteria the volunteers at the front began saying a prayer over the food and then served the people waiting in line.

Grabbing a tray of food and sitting down I picked up my fork and stabbed it into the eggs on my tray. I took a bite and I thought to myself, this was going to be a long month, a long month indeed.

Latest comments
  • Another low-life reporter that thinks it’s “cool” to pretend to be homeless, using limited resources intended for those who truly need them. Disgusting!

  • This story brought tears to my eyes. Like they say you never know what it is like to go through something until you have experienced it yourself, you all did just that. You could have easily spent the life as a homeless person for a day, or a week but to take on a whole month really shows your love and commitment.

  • It’s always a pleasure to hear from someone with exisrtpee.

  • After reading this article, I was informed about the homeless in Tyler, and aware of the needs of these individuals. To become homeless for a month, demonstrates the stellar job of a journalist.

  • Since reading this article, I now have a greater respect for those who will voluntarily put themselves through an experience in order to raise awareness of a problem. This is definitely an example of investigative journalism.

  • Wow. You don’t realize how blessed you are in life until you actually experience something like this. It is really neat to know there are people trying to help the homeless and raise awareness for them. I hope to be this impactful through my job someday.

  • I have lived in Tyler my entire life and did not realize that the Homeless Epidemic is so High In Tyler. I love the concept that the Journalist used which was You never know what someone is going through unless you walk in their shoes. I would Love to Help out where ever there is a Need, as well as carry My three year old son along so that he can see We can Never take things for Granted

  • My family is moving to Tyler and would love to help the Tyler homeless camp. Can you please let me know where I can drop off donations? Thanks for sharing information about this group.

  • The problem with people is that some of these people never have to live on the streets. That’s why people are such butt holes. They don’t know what’s it’s like to not know where they are going to sleep the next night or eat the next day. There are no agencies to help and when someone that tries to do right by setting up a tent on land that is never seen or touched or used then all of a sudden they come in and kick out the people that are harmlessly using it just to survive from day to day. Some of these homeless people actually do have jobs and kids and go through a rough patch and want to save money to get back on their feet and they get slapped in the face just because someone doesn’t make a dollar off of it. These same people that kick homeless people out of property just because they don’t want them on it are the ones that attend your church’s saying we are good Christian people and we care about everyone.

  • It is perhaps long overdue that I throw in my 2 cents about this experience. To say the least, it was life changing. When Union Pacific began throwing its weight around, I became committed to finding another place to set up Camp PS 91. Unfortunately, the amount of media exposure that we had brought the unwanted scrutiny of the City of Tyler. Long story made short, we disbanded and went our separate ways. Once again I began viewing myself as a failure. However, looking back on the whole Camp PS 91 experience and the awesome move of our amazing God, I now see that Camp PS 91 was anything but a failure. As a result of the wonderful people who got on board in support of our ministry, Shane accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, got baptized, and he and Brittany got married. We were able to minister to many people in their struggles, and were even blessed to be able to send 8 people home to their families out of state. Though the media coverage contributed to the closing of Camp PS 91, it also served to increase awareness of the homelessness issues within the heart of Tyler.
    Though there are no longer any tents, tarps or campfires, the spirit of hope and life that was such a prevalent part of Camp PS 91 still lives on. Today, I am thoroughly convinced that God accomplished exactly what He intended through Camp PS 91, and that will always be a wonderful memory and source of praise in my life.
    May you all be filled and sustained by the Peace of God that surpasses understanding, and may you be continually blessed beyond all you can ask or imagine.
    Yours in Christ
    Tim Harris

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