PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Nearly a dozen tents are propped up under the Murray Baker Bridge in Peoria.
It has become a place of refuge for some homeless people searching for a place to live. During a season where millions are reflecting on all they are thankful for, Marcus Young of Peoria said he is just happy to be alive.
“I’m homeless, nowhere to go, shelters all packed and full, this is like the only place we could actually stay,” Young said.
Young said he has been living under the bridge since the summer.
“We help each other, we do the best we can to survive out here it gets kind of rough, it’s hard it’s cold at night,” Young said.
Thomas Whitney is like the glue, holding the group together. Whitney said he looks out for everyone that joins them under the bridge.
“Some people come in here they’re so broken-hearted all they want to do is just talk to somebody for 10 mins there’s no reason they should be crying at 2’oclock in the afternoon,” Whitney said.
While trying to survive in the cold and in a pandemic, young is urging people who have a warm place to stay, to count their blessings.
“People who have got a home are very lucky to not be out here because it’s hard to survive when it’s cold,” Young said.
A few Bradley University students said they cannot relate to the group’s struggle, but they can extend a helping hand.
Kristina Vyes is one of the students who brought clothing, toiletries, snacks, and blankets under the bridge.
“I figured if we go straight to the source without going to an organization I know for sure someone is gonna get what they need,” Vyes said.
Community members even gifted the group a Christmas Tree, keeping the holiday spirit alive in the midst of circumstance.
Whitney said they don’t need money to celebrate the holiday.
“Christmas is a time to be together with family and right here everybody is a family,” Whitney said.
Young said they are grateful for the community donations. Adding, they are still in need of blankets and hand warmers as they brave the cold.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation in Peoria said they cannot kick people out of that area unless they are interfering with construction.
WMBD reached out to the City of Peoria about enforcement and have not heard back yet.
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