BALTIMORE - They call him the ‘mayor’.
Nathaniel Quarterman lived in a tent city beneath Interstate 83 in Baltimore for almost a year, and he speaks for his 15 friends who still call it their home.
"I sit out here every day. I have depression, and I don't go anywhere unless I just have to. I sit. We watch each other's tents. We've never had the cops come down here, because of drugs, fighting (and) drunkenness."
But after five years, the city has served notice that it will shut down what is now commonly referred to as Camp 83, and those who refuse to leave by the Friday morning deadline will be arrested.
"Know that we stand by our position that we did have a very wide variety of shelter space available throughout the public and private network available for the campers on any given night," said Mayor’s Office of Human Services Director Olivia D. Farrow at a hearing on Thursday.
But at that same hearing, Tracy and Charles Jones, explained why they abandoned the shelters.
"I had incidents where I was sexually harassed amongst other things---just theft and things of that nature,” said Tracy, “so it was not just something that was feasible for me so that's why I was outside with Charles for a little over a year."
Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is introducing a resolution calling on the city to store the campers’ belongings and to put them up in motels temporarily or to extend the deadline by three months.
At the eleventh hour Thursday, less than 24 hours before the eviction deadline, private advocates had come forward with temporary housing.
"It's coming together,” said Clarke, “I think that we will have everyone under roof with heat by the time 8 o'clock tomorrow morning comes."
That’s good news for the camp’s mayor wo says the shifting hours, rules and treatment that come with city shelters made the site across from Central Booking look like a paradise.
"I understand about rules, but to me that is no different than being over here,” said Quarterman as he motioned towards the jail, “The only difference is you don't have bars, sir."
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