On Sunday, his community will be gone.
But, this past Tuesday, Enos Hake sat on his concrete patio in Harrisburg, listening to his radio. He greeted his neighbor, Dale, as he peddled by. He talked about his days as an ironworker, politics and hubbub about his neighbors.
The property at 1001 Mulberry St. has been sold, and the 30-plus people who live there in the abandoned buildings and truck trailers have been told that they need to be out by Sunday.
“This is going to impact a lot of people ‘cause they don’t know where they are going to go,” said Hake, who has called this abandoned lot home for four years.
Hake and his friend share a 6-by-12 foot concrete room they call “the man cave.” Their space holds mattresses on milk crates, fishing rods, coolers, basic necessities and books he got from a van that drops by.
Not all dwellings on the lot are so well appointed. One building holds about 10 tents, where individuals and couples live. Why tents in a building?
Under a billowy sky, with the screech of train tracks in the background, GarriAnn Hearn explained that having the tents inside another structure, even one with holes in the ceiling, offers a layer of protection from the elements.
“Having it inside gives a little bit more of a shelter, even though it’s not a good, enclosed shelter,” she said.
Hearn, co-founder of Market Square Friends, a local grassroots group that assists the homeless in Harrisburg, went on to explain that people can keep their belongings in their tents, as well. She said that those who live here have a measure of security.
“People don’t go beyond the fence who don’t know what’s beyond there,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine, but it’s a community.”
It’s a community that needs to disperse by Sunday.
“They’re telling us we have to go by Sunday morning,” said Maggie Nace, who’s lived there for two years. “No one has nowhere to go.”
Still, people are collecting their things.
“Everybody’s rushing to pack up so we don’t lose nothin’,” she said “There’s no way to move things.”
There’s an air of fear, resignation and doubt on the lot. Hake said that he’s heard many times that the lot would be sold.
This time, however, it’s not mere rumor. The former owner informed local social service organizations that the sale was happening, so that residents could prepare.
Those same agencies are concerned about the people there and the disruption to their lives. Hearn is a part of the Compassion Action Network, a collaborative group of local charities working together.
Market Square Friends, G2:10 Outreach and other groups serve food every Monday and provide personal hygiene items and clothes in a location near the Mulberry Street Bridge.
“We can serve folks now where we can congregate without getting in trouble,” she said.
Last week, they served 75 people. She doesn’t know where they will serve now.
Downtown Daily Bread offers breakfast and lunch, as well as a place to stay during the day.
“We’re the only place where people can come during the day and just be,” said director Anne Guenin. “People can come in and sleep and don’t have to worry about their stuff getting stolen.”
With the sale of the lot, more folks may be using Downtown Daily Bread’s services.
“Whether they will end up coming here during the day remains to be seen,” Guenin said.
Kim Corigliano’s tent sits just outside the lot under the bridge, and she’s not sure if she’ll be affected by the sale.
“It’s a shame,” she said.
She described her plans for the winter. She’ll create a wall by collecting discarded water bottles and “plug the holes in the chain link fence to block the wind,” she said.
Nace and her husband, Nate Phillips, aren’t sure they’ll be there this winter. They headed off to see about a room to rent.
John, who didn’t want to share his last name, said he may go to Bethesda Mission.
“Something to get back on my feet,” he said.
He said that he was once a roofer and has health problems. He added that people on the lot get along and keep each other informed of what’s going on.
Phillips and Nace returned from their search. Hake, still seated on his concrete slab, yelled a greeting and asked if they got the place.
“No, Dave got it,” they answered.
Hake didn’t seem too worried about his next steps.
“I was an iron worker,” he said. “I’m tough.”
Then he added that many people there were “scared ‘cause they don’t know what they are going to do.”
On the other side of the fence, the buildings are lost to the sumac, golden rod and ivy. Except for the occasional passerby, most people never realized that folks lived there.
Hake, Nace, Phillips and the rest of the folks here are about to lose a community that, as imperfect as it was, most people didn’t even know existed.