• Fitchburg health department ordering homeless camp out of the woods

    By: Jim Morelli

    Updated:

    FITCHBURG, Mass. - One tent after another. Boston 25 News sent the drone up to capture a homeless camp in Fitchburg. It's right next to a river and there is not much else in the area, but the health department is ordering the group to get out. 

    Some homeless people say they've been camping there for years.

    "This is the third summer that I've been out here," said Russell Senecal. 

    But if the city of Fitchburg has the final say, it will be the last summer Senecal lives in these woods. He, along with a handful of other homeless people, face imminent eviction from the campsite that they call home during the warmer months.

    "I'm down here... we're down here... we're very quiet... we're all friends," said Jackie Hensley.

    Friends who share a mistrust for the fallback shelter in town and a simple desire to live unnoticed. 

    Their tents are pitched above the Nashua River on a crumbling slab of concrete. Their laundry strung between branches waiting vainly for a breeze. 

    As happy as the campers may be here they are on private property and the Fitchburg Board of Health considers their presence in these woods a nuisance citing a lack of bathroom facilities, trash, crime, and recent overdoses.

    It was the last of those overdoses that may have forced the city's hand. 

    "There was an overdose. And he died. But we don't do heroin. Or fentanyl. Which is deadly of course," said Hensley. 

    But someone is generating trash and they are trespassing. The board of health says it's working with the property owner to resolve the problem but will step in with code enforcement if necessary. 

    "Where we gonna go?" Hensley asked.

    The short-term answer is the local shelter in town. Long-term, that's anyone's guess. 

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