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Homeless ordered to leave 'tent city'

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Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 4:02 am, Mon May 28, 2012.

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- A group of homeless people who have been camping at an old Bloomington rail yard have been told they must leave after the property owner agreed to the city's demands that he tear down a burned-out warehouse and level overgrown vegetation at the site.

Demolition could begin as soon as next week.

About 10 people have been living in a cluster of tents at the site for months; some moved there after officials cleared them from city-owned land this spring. They were told Thursday that they will have to move again.

"It's sad; it's tough," said police officer Brad Peterson.

He accompanied social workers there on Thursday, where they tried to encourage tent city residents to move before demolition begins. Campers were offered bus tickets to take them to live with relatives or at homeless shelters. They also were offered help getting a LINK card, the Illinois version of food stamps.

Some just won't take help, said Joe Scheinpflug, PATH housing and benefits specialist.

Chris Lemmons, a 28-year-old who was released from jail earlier this year and has lived in the tent city for three months, said it was "like an extended camping trip," but homelessness is not a permanent option.

Although the campers have been trespassing, the city hadn't issued citations in part because the property owner had to request action.

The owner, St. Louis-based developer Jerry Leigh, agreed to clean up the property at the city's insistence. Leigh's partner, Mick Owen, said he is waiting for permit approval but hopes to begin demolition as early as next week.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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