Alderman Frazier: Homeless encampment becoming a nuisance

Published 11:09 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Ward 2 Alderman Billie Joe Frazier is concerned that the makeshift homeless encampment near Walmart is becoming a nuisance..

Frazier brought the issue up on Tuesday at the city’s Board of Alderman meeting, saying he was told by Walmart store employees that people living in the encampment adjacent to the parking lot are causing issues.

“What they are doing is standing outside the store and begging people for money. And they are coming into the store and taking baths and using the bathrooms and lingering,” Frazier said.

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He said the Walmart employees at one time used a covered area with picnic tables for their breaks, but he said that area has now been taken over by people from the homeless encampment.

“I am not against homeless people. That could happen to anyone,” Frazier said. “But when it becomes a nuisance to the community, it’s our job to do something.”

He said some of the homeless people have been going up to Walmart customers as they get out of their cars in the parking lot, or are following customers to their cars.

“Some customers are afraid to go there, particularly at night. (The homeless people)  walk up to them at their cars and startle customers,” he said. “One of the managers told me they called the police on some of the homeless people hanging around outside the store and was told by the police that there is nothing they could do. That’s not true. That property they are camping out in is city property and the city is trying to sell it. We can get them off that property.

“It’s not just an issue Natchez is dealing with. It’s all over the country. But somewhere down the line, we have to protect our citizens,” Frazier said.

Many of the homeless people involved have mental issues and others are veterans or disabled veterans, he said.

“Something needs to be done. I’ve been there on Sundays and noticed citizens bring them food. That’s nothing but the right thing to do, help someone who needs help, but the safety of the community must be considered. They do not need to be in that location. I don’t want there to be an incident because I fear someone will get hurt or killed. This is an issue we need to address,” Frazier said.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said the issue is a difficult one and one that the city has been dealing with for some time.

“We have posted the property numerous times and numerous times police officers have gone to this property and other properties to attempt to enforce no trespassing laws,” Gibson said. “Obviously, our efforts have fallen short. I am grateful to Alderman Frazier for bringing this forward at our recent meeting and I hope we can come to some solution.”

He, too, said the issue is one facing towns and cities across the country.

“What we really need is to encourage our state and federal lawmakers to invest more funds toward the treatment of mental illness and also toward the treatment of addiction issues. Nine times out of 10, we find that the homeless population is plagued by these two conditions.

“Sadly, we also are finding that some of these individuals live a nomadic lifestyle and seem to find that lifestyle to be preferable to others,” he said. “We feel for all those who are suffering. At the same time, we have got to safeguard our citizens, our businesses and our community as a whole.

“We have been and we continue to ask citizens to report panhandling to us because that activity is not condoned in our city. We also ask citizens not to enable some of these habits that are creating a challenge for our citizens and for our tax paying businesses,” Gibson said.