News & Blogs As Homeless Find Refuge in Forests, ‘Anger Is Palpable’ in Nearby Towns (1 Viewer)

Brother X

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Mr. Wendlandt serves lunch and hands out socks to needy campers every Thursday. But he has stopped provisioning people with blankets and sleeping bags, worried that what seemed like compassion could be exacerbating a problem.


Darcee and Gerald Babbitt at their campsite outside Nederland. “Yes, we’re homeless,” Mr. Babbitt said. “No, we’re not vagrants. No, we’re not beggars.”
A wildfire in July was a tipping point. Two men from Alabama pitched camp without permission on a privately owned hillside near Nederland, lit a campfire and read their Bibles, they told the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. The men told officials they put some rocks on the fire to put it out, and though they discussed whether they should do more to smother it, they decided not to.

One smoldering cigarette or lightning strike can ignite an entire hillside in the parched, fuel-filled forests across the West, and officials say the campfire galloped away and burned 600 acres of canyons and forests around Nederland. It destroyed eight homes, including that of a fire captain.

The two men who started the campfire, Jimmy Suggs and Zackary Kuykendall, were arrested and charged with fourth-degree arson. The day before their arrest on July 10, the two men and a female companion — who was not criminally charged — happened across a reporter for The Boulder Daily Camera who was interviewing evacuees from the still-burning fire.

“We were pretty close,” Mr. Suggs told the newspaper. “It looked like the whole mountain range was on fire.”

Citing the fire danger, some residents have asked the Forest Service to do what many cities have done in cracking down on the homeless: impose tighter rules on camping, or ban it in parts of the woods that have attracted the most people.

The Forest Service says it is working with thin law enforcement resources. One officer is assigned to Boulder County, which encompasses Nederland and the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests, which dominate the western part of the county. The service is spending more and more of its budget fighting wildfires, and has pared back on filling some law enforcement posts, said Chris Boehm, the agency’s acting deputy director for law enforcement and investigations.

“There may be some regions where we have one officer assigned to an entire forest or area,” he said. “That’s not what we want, but fires are expensive.”

The Nederland fire was one of a handful across the West in recent years that officials have blamed on transient campers. In Anchorage this May, officials said a two-acre brush fire appeared to start in a homeless camp. In Northern Arizona, where a homeless man was sentenced to a year in prison in 2010 for accidentally igniting a 280-acre wildfire, officials stepped up patrols this summer to look for illegal fires set by people living in the woods.


Hansen Wendlandt, the pastor at the Nederland Community Presbyterian Church, runs an outreach program for homeless people in the area.
For years, people searching for solitude or without better options have retreated to live in the woods, in buses, vans, tents or other improvised shelters, their numbers swelling every summer and dwindling when the snow comes. But officials say public lands researchers are just beginning to study who lives there, and why.

A 2015 survey of 290 law enforcement officers for the Forest Service found that officers in the Rocky Mountain West and Southwest encountered long-term campers most often. About half of the officers said the number of these long-term campers was on the rise, and only 2 percent said it had declined. (The rest said the number had either largely held steady or fluctuated.)

Lee Cerveny, one of the researchers who conducted the survey, said it was unclear how many people might be living on public lands at any given time.

“What is happening, and why are we seeing more people living in the forests?” she said. “We don’t know yet.”

National parks place strict limits on camping, but in national forests and open spaces managed by the Bureau of Land Management, people can pitch tents just about anywhere camping is not prohibited. Many forests allow camping for only two weeks at a time. In 2015, the Forest Service handled 1,014 episodes related to violations of those rules.

Around Nederland, crime reports, medical emergencies, unattended fires and other calls for help and extra patrols have soared at three Forest Service areas popular with homeless campers. The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office was called there 388 times last year, up from 213 in 2013, and officials attribute some of the rise to Colorado’s reputation as a mecca for legal marijuana, and Nederland’s embrace of retail marijuana dispensaries.

Rick Dirr, the Nederland fire chief, said his largely volunteer firefighters no longer answer nighttime calls in the woods without a marshal or sheriff’s officer as backup. He said he has faced down one camper who carried a butcher knife, and searched the woods for another man who had attacked his girlfriend. There was the boy who swallowed a heroin baggie, he recalled, and a man who was hit in the head with a shovel.

Others just do not understand how the forest works, he said. He responded to a report of an illegal fire to find a teenage boy and his 8-year-old sister alone at their campsite, bags of garbage everywhere. They and their parents had been living out of their car, and the father asked Chief Dirr when someone would come by for garbage pickup.

“We still don’t have a solution,” he said. “These are the things going on unseen in the woods.”

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Mankini

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Ohhhh Nederland. LOL I prefer other parts of the state, but to each their own i guess.
 

Matt Derrick

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wow this place is really making the rounds through both the grapevine and now the news apparently. can't see that lasting long.
 

VikingAdventurer

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I have a buddy who went through Nederland a year or so ago, and he said it was awesome.

Of course, he's a traveler and not a homebum who expects everyone to clean up all HIS shit, so there's that.
 

Matt Derrick

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I have a buddy who went through Nederland a year or so ago, and he said it was awesome.

Of course, he's a traveler and not a homebum who expects everyone to clean up all HIS shit, so there's that.
yeah, we've been getting a lot of posts recently about nederland, but it sounds like this is going to blow things up there pretty bad.

interestingly, the guy who runs the cheaprvliving.com website did an article today about this news peice, so i'm going to repost it here since it seems relevant.

http://www.cheaprvliving.com/boondocking-2/sensationalism-about-the-homeless-in-national-forest/

Sensationalism About the Homeless in National Forest
Posted on August 25, 2016 by Bob59 Comments ↓

homeless-jpg.32744


There is a New York Times Newspaper article going around the net that has thrown a lot of people into confusion and fear. Numerous people have sent me the link and asked me if I thought this was the end of our way of life–vandwelling on Public Land. They told me that they had been planning to buy a van and move into it, but after seeing stories like these, maybe they would change their minds and give up on that dream. Hear is a link to the story.

www.nytimes.com/2016/08/22/us/as-homeless-find-refuge-in-forests-anger-is-palpable-in-nearby-towns.html

To summarize it, it’s the story of a few towns in Colorado, where the National Forests backs right up against the town and homeless people are living very close to town and creating problems for the local folks. They often leave terrible garbage piles and some are mentally ill and even appear dangerous. To make matters worse, they routinely miss-manage their fires and create Forest Fires very close to town. Overall, they are a problem for the town and apparently creating a lot of fear, loathing and anger.

When people write me, they ask these questions:

  • Is this a game-changer for us?
  • Should I abandon my plans to become a nomad?
  • When I read something like this should I make major decisions based on it?
Absolutely not to each of those questions!! This is just more nonsense! It’s pure sensationalism to sell more advertising and create a climate of fear!!

Some thoughts to consider:

  1. The homeless are only a problem in a tiny percentage of the National Forests. Once you get away from larger population centers, the problem just stops entirely because they can’t afford to get out there and back to get supplies. I’d guess in 99% or more of NF there is ZERO homeless problem!! But, the Media is going to create a firestorm about the teeny, tiny percentage where there is a problem. Just go camp somewhere they aren’t at!
  2. It’s already illegal to reside in the Forest and no new laws are required–all they have to do is enforce the existing laws. On one hand, I’m very surprised they have allowed this to go on this long. But the simple fact is the FS doesn’t have the budget to enforce the laws already in existence. In 2015 they spent 3/4 of their budget on fighting Forest fires and so in the Coconino NF where many of us stay because of it’s close proximity to Flagstaff, there was an obvious downturn in enforcement. Numerous people spent the entire summer camped there with nary a word from the Rangers trying to stop them.
  3. Homeless camps in the woods have one problem–winter! It’s too cold to try to live in most NFs in the country, and all of them in Colorado. If you don’t have money, you’re not buying propane. Come winter you are moving into town
  4. Snow, the majority of roads in NFs aren’t plowed in winter and are impassable. If they are occasionally passable, you never know when a storm will hit and they will become impassable, locking you in for who knows how long.
If local communities convince the local Rangers to take action, that won’t impact you and I at all. We can easily just drive a little further from towns and be all alone with no homeless anywhere in site. With less use on the Forest, there will be less Ranger activity and we’ll be left alone.

Nationally, people can cry all they want and Congress can pass more laws, but they won’t give the FS the budget to enforce it so nothing is going to change for you and I. If we go further from where the homeless are, nothing will change for us.

ernbrg-homeless-2-jpg.32745

This was a homeless camp near me on BLM land in Arizona. The trailer was obviously not roadworthy and there was a lot more trash than you can see in this photo. He had obviously been living there year-around for years.

My Experience With the Homeless
I’ve run into the homeless in my travels and in fact experienced something very similiar to this, except it was on BLM land. When we first started camping in the Arizona desert at Ehrenberg, AZ, there were at least a dozen homeless camps on the road back to our camp. They were huge filthy messes and these people had obviously been living there full-time for years. They had towed in old RVs that could no longer be driven and had been living in them.

Apparently the County finally got tired of it and worked out an arrangement with the BLM because they came in with huge dumpsters and front-end loaders and simply scooped the entire camp up–including the trashed RV–and put it in the dumpster and took it to the landfill! That next fall when we returned, they were all gone and the place was spotless.

That whole winter there was rampant speculation about whether we would be next on the County hit-list. After all, some of our group spent the whole winter camped on one spot–although no one was there more than 5 months–and everyone kept a neat, clean camp.

I tried to reassure everyone that we were at no risk, but some just loved to fret and worry about it anyway. And I turned out to be right, we’ve camped there two winters since then and have not been bothered by anyone, County or BLM.

The simple fact is they don’t have the budget to spend much of it harassing us. If you keep a low-profile and avoid being noticed by staying remote and keeping a neat, clean camp, you aren’t going to have a problem. If you are nearer to a large population center, you can expect the 14 day rule to be enforced, that leaves you two choices, 1) follow the rule and move every 14 days, or, 2) camp further out where the Rangers are unlikely to patrol.

skeleton-1-jpg.32746


The bottom line is this is just more sensationalism meant to profit off of our fear and to keep us in line and obediently serving our corporate and government masters.

Don’t let it work on you!!
 
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That campground in Nederland has been blown up for a while now. I was there three years ago and there was massive amounts of trash then, and a lot of the folks in town saw my pack and were either a bit standoffish or warned me not to dump shit up there. The solution isn't more policing. I don't have any love for these people who trash the place, but if the pigs crack down, they're just going to go elsewhere and trash the place, and with the economy in permanent recession, the number of people who are that down-and-out and giving no fucks is going to increase. An example is when NYC illegalized needles during the AIDS crisis. By making these "human social problems" into outlaws, they actually shared needles MORE and AIDS went up. The real way was eventually figured out in harm reduction - opening centers where needles can be exchanged, safe spaces to use exist, and treatment for addiction is offered if they so choose. Similarly, if the powers that be work together with the homeless and offer them some semblance of legitimacy and dignity, they can be allowed to use the land in a way that does not destroy it. But that would require the surrounding populous to think long-term and do more than just hate on people who are in a bad situation (and behaving badly, to be sure). It's more "western justice" style to have Johhny Law run up on these filthy mutts and chase them county to county for years on end, so that's what will happen.
 
A

AlwaysLost

I deleted myself
This is why I always use a hobo stove and I douse the area around it water. Common sense ppl. Don't catch your home on fire.
 
A

AlwaysLost

I deleted myself
yeah, we've been getting a lot of posts recently about nederland, but it sounds like this is going to blow things up there pretty bad.

interestingly, the guy who runs the cheaprvliving.com website did an article today about this news peice, so i'm going to repost it here since it seems relevant.

http://www.cheaprvliving.com/boondocking-2/sensationalism-about-the-homeless-in-national-forest/

Sensationalism About the Homeless in National Forest
Posted on August 25, 2016 by Bob59 Comments ↓

View attachment 32744

There is a New York Times Newspaper article going around the net that has thrown a lot of people into confusion and fear. Numerous people have sent me the link and asked me if I thought this was the end of our way of life–vandwelling on Public Land. They told me that they had been planning to buy a van and move into it, but after seeing stories like these, maybe they would change their minds and give up on that dream. Hear is a link to the story.

www.nytimes.com/2016/08/22/us/as-homeless-find-refuge-in-forests-anger-is-palpable-in-nearby-towns.html

To summarize it, it’s the story of a few towns in Colorado, where the National Forests backs right up against the town and homeless people are living very close to town and creating problems for the local folks. They often leave terrible garbage piles and some are mentally ill and even appear dangerous. To make matters worse, they routinely miss-manage their fires and create Forest Fires very close to town. Overall, they are a problem for the town and apparently creating a lot of fear, loathing and anger.

When people write me, they ask these questions:

  • Is this a game-changer for us?
  • Should I abandon my plans to become a nomad?
  • When I read something like this should I make major decisions based on it?
Absolutely not to each of those questions!! This is just more nonsense! It’s pure sensationalism to sell more advertising and create a climate of fear!!

Some thoughts to consider:

  1. The homeless are only a problem in a tiny percentage of the National Forests. Once you get away from larger population centers, the problem just stops entirely because they can’t afford to get out there and back to get supplies. I’d guess in 99% or more of NF there is ZERO homeless problem!! But, the Media is going to create a firestorm about the teeny, tiny percentage where there is a problem. Just go camp somewhere they aren’t at!
  2. It’s already illegal to reside in the Forest and no new laws are required–all they have to do is enforce the existing laws. On one hand, I’m very surprised they have allowed this to go on this long. But the simple fact is the FS doesn’t have the budget to enforce the laws already in existence. In 2015 they spent 3/4 of their budget on fighting Forest fires and so in the Coconino NF where many of us stay because of it’s close proximity to Flagstaff, there was an obvious downturn in enforcement. Numerous people spent the entire summer camped there with nary a word from the Rangers trying to stop them.
  3. Homeless camps in the woods have one problem–winter! It’s too cold to try to live in most NFs in the country, and all of them in Colorado. If you don’t have money, you’re not buying propane. Come winter you are moving into town
  4. Snow, the majority of roads in NFs aren’t plowed in winter and are impassable. If they are occasionally passable, you never know when a storm will hit and they will become impassable, locking you in for who knows how long.
If local communities convince the local Rangers to take action, that won’t impact you and I at all. We can easily just drive a little further from towns and be all alone with no homeless anywhere in site. With less use on the Forest, there will be less Ranger activity and we’ll be left alone.

Nationally, people can cry all they want and Congress can pass more laws, but they won’t give the FS the budget to enforce it so nothing is going to change for you and I. If we go further from where the homeless are, nothing will change for us.

View attachment 32745
This was a homeless camp near me on BLM land in Arizona. The trailer was obviously not roadworthy and there was a lot more trash than you can see in this photo. He had obviously been living there year-around for years.

My Experience With the Homeless
I’ve run into the homeless in my travels and in fact experienced something very similiar to this, except it was on BLM land. When we first started camping in the Arizona desert at Ehrenberg, AZ, there were at least a dozen homeless camps on the road back to our camp. They were huge filthy messes and these people had obviously been living there full-time for years. They had towed in old RVs that could no longer be driven and had been living in them.

Apparently the County finally got tired of it and worked out an arrangement with the BLM because they came in with huge dumpsters and front-end loaders and simply scooped the entire camp up–including the trashed RV–and put it in the dumpster and took it to the landfill! That next fall when we returned, they were all gone and the place was spotless.

That whole winter there was rampant speculation about whether we would be next on the County hit-list. After all, some of our group spent the whole winter camped on one spot–although no one was there more than 5 months–and everyone kept a neat, clean camp.

I tried to reassure everyone that we were at no risk, but some just loved to fret and worry about it anyway. And I turned out to be right, we’ve camped there two winters since then and have not been bothered by anyone, County or BLM.

The simple fact is they don’t have the budget to spend much of it harassing us. If you keep a low-profile and avoid being noticed by staying remote and keeping a neat, clean camp, you aren’t going to have a problem. If you are nearer to a large population center, you can expect the 14 day rule to be enforced, that leaves you two choices, 1) follow the rule and move every 14 days, or, 2) camp further out where the Rangers are unlikely to patrol.

View attachment 32746

The bottom line is this is just more sensationalism meant to profit off of our fear and to keep us in line and obediently serving our corporate and government masters.

Don’t let it work on you!!
Very insightful commentary. Its reassuring as I plan on living in the wilderness for a couple years.
 

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