Tent city on private property causing issues for neighbors

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ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- On Tuesday, we told you about a tent city just outside of St. Albans that has created some issues for people living in the area, click here to see that story.

The property owner says there are about a dozen people living on the property in St. Albans, West Virginia.

There's about a dozen people currently living in tents on the property that is located at the end of Rust Street in a secluded area.

Originally, they were going to be kicked off for trespassing in March, but a local pastor bought the property and now they are legally allowed to stay there with his permission. He says he makes sure they are being compliant, but neighbors say the crime is only getting worse.

Darlene Nickoson lives on the street that leads to tent city. She says it's been there for years, but it's getting worse.

"I know the people that have houses up here and I know the people who live in tent city, and I know the people who are living in tent city are the ones in my yard. I'm fed up with it, I don't care if nobody else goes on camera, I'm tired of it."

The pastor wants to remain anonymous, but he sat down Wednesday with WSAZ's Leanne Shinkle for comment. He says after seeing a lot of homelessness in St. Albans, he made it his mission to help.

"They are broken people and they are like stuck in a ditch and we just need to help them get out of it and so that's what we are trying to do, and that's all we are trying to do," the pastor said.

He says he keeps tabs on the people who stay in tent city. In fact, he checks in with Kanawha County deputies often to make sure none of them have warrants out for their arrest. He says that's why only 13 people have permission to live there.

Nickoson says even if they don't have warrants, they are still causing problems.

"They come to our door asking for money, that makes me angry," she said. "They come in my yard and threaten me, saying they are going to kill my dogs."

We knocked on several doors along the street, and several neighbors said they've had stuff stolen from the people who are living in tent city. Nickoson says because of all of the theft on her property, she installed security cameras and bought a guard dog.

"My husband has had chainsaws, weed eaters, his blowers, and his wallet stolen. I couldn't tell you what all we've had stolen," Nickoson said.

The pastor says the people staying at tent city know better than to steal, because he will get them what they need.

"I don't at all condone anything that would go against the police department or encourage them to go into the stores and steal. I've told them, I've said, you've got a need, you come to me and I'll buy it for you."

Nickoson's husband owns a business and she says he has gone back to the property and asked the people living there if they want to come and work for him.

"Those people don't want to work. My husband went up there yesterday because his guys didn't show up for work, and he asked if they wanted to come work and they all told him no," Nickoson said.

The pastor says several of the people living in tent city have jobs, working for roofing companies, and at car washes.

We reached out to the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office about the property, Sgt. Brian Humphreys says they patrol the area on a regular basis. Deputies have asked the Department of Environmental Protection to look into the amount of trash on the property. Since the last visit, Humphrey says some of that trash has been cleaned up.

The pastor says the tent city will not be leaving any time soon. In fact, the church plans to build shower houses on the property. He says they will continue to work with police to monitor the area and make sure everyone who stays on the property is following the law.