Homeless of Manatee County Find Refuge in Woodland Campsite

THE HomelesS OF MANATEE COUNTY
17th Street East is an industrial backroad lined by towing and auto service companies, where the pavement gives way to a dusty dirt road as you reach its dead end. It is at this dead end where Oneco’s homeless community have constructed their woodland campsite after being displaced by the La Mexicana Flea Market fire reported in the Bradenton Herald in Dec. of 2016.

homeless trailer

An abandoned trailer homes several campsite residents. (Photo: Alexander Michael Buono)

“The police have changed,” said Sonia T, one of the encampment’s newer residents,(who asked not to be identified). Sonia added, “We like the people who bring food, but they haven’t been around here for a while.”
According to last year’s Point-In-Time Survey conducted by the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness, the homeless count for the area in Manatee County outside of Bradenton has increased from 23 to 242 persons. Several non-profit agencies along with Suncoast have worked with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in offering to provide services to the homeless communities across the county.
“We will visit homeless camps and supply the people that are there that they can get help, whether it be the Salvation Army or there are several organizations here that will help the homeless,” according to Dave Bristow of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

From inside the 17th Street East campsite, the homeless community tent homes are made up of salvaged building materials, such as plumbing fixtures, cement blocks and scrap lumber. Many of the residents have bartering system for tools and other wares that aid in their day to day survival. In the recent months, the winter cold and living within a floodplain has created challenges to the community.

Homeless Camp

Josh’s two-story structure that he himself has constructed. (Photo: Alexander Michael Buono)

“It wasn’t Irma, but actually a storm two weeks before that flooded the whole area, water up to these tracks,” said Josh, a man in his 50’s who has hand built the two-story structure set back from the train tracks (above). “I’ve lived in Buffalo, Sarasota, and this community is the most difficult to live in.”

For more information on how to get involved the non-profit special projects geared to helping Manatee County’s homeless, click here.