Union Pacific is asking the community of homeless people living on land surrounding the railroad tracks near downtown Tyler to vacate the company’s property by Feb. 1, or risk official eviction proceedings.
For several years, Union Pacific’s trains passed by “tent city” without a problem. A spokesperson for the company said at least one recent incident involving someone blocking the tracks ended up alerting authorities to the existence of the camp.
“The next day, the officials came out here and let us know that on the first of the year they were going to come out and give everyone notice (to leave),” Tim Harris said. “I don’t have a clear answer on where to go.”
Harris runs the P.S. 91 homeless outreach ministry, so the evictions are kind of like a punch to the gut.
“A little bit,” he said. “But this whole thing has been an exercise in learning to walk by faith. I still strongly believe that God put us here and we’ve been fulfilling the purpose that God put us here for.”
For the people who P.S. 91 has helped, like Brittany Garza and Shane Trull, there is hope.
“I’m going to tell you this. … I was a firm non-believer in God (before P.S. 91),” Trull said.
But he and Garza are worried that being kicked off the land will mean others will miss out on this kind of help.
“You have to trust,” Trull said. “Trust the man upstairs.”
Harris is hoping to go somewhere nearby. He’s looking at land just to the north and hoping a fundraiser could generate enough money to buy it.
“If I could raise enough money to buy an acre even, then we could set up a significant emergency shelter camp,” Harris said.
The Union Pacific spokesperson said the company appreciates what Harris is doing for people, and they hope a month is enough time to make alternate plans.