CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The Clay County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Tuesday that it was working with a property owner to dismantle a homeless camp in a wooded area just south of the Duval County line, near the Orange Park Mall.
Aerial video recorded Tuesday from the Sky 4 helicopter showed Sheriff’s Office cruisers with heavy equipment, including a bulldozer on a flatbed and a truck with a claw to pick up debris, along Blanding Boulevard near Wells Road.
This comes after a deputy reached out to the property owner to address a drug and nuisance complaint a couple of months ago, according to a post on Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook’s Facebook page.
“A large treehouse had been built and it was being used as a haven for drug users / dealers,” the post continued.
A couple of months ago Deputy Ronnie Freshour reached out to the owner of the property near Wells and Blanding and asked...Posted by Sheriff Michelle Cook on Tuesday, January 18, 2022
A tree removal service was then brought in Tuesday to tear down the structure, the sheriff wrote.
Dustin Johnson says he built the treehouse as a safe place to live with his girlfriend and their dog.
“It was four floors. It was high up there. It was pretty nice for wood, I just found all over the place,” Johnson said.
The News4JAX I-TEAM has been reporting on panhandling and homeless camps in the area for months.
In September, News4JAX spoke with a man who said he was homeless and lived in the wooded area.
RELATED: Clay County residents raise concerns over security in, around Orange Park Mall
In October, Clay County officials announced a new initiative to address quality of life issues along Wells Road and launch a series of beautification projects.
“We don’t know what goes on in these camps, and it’s very concerning,” said Jason Baker, who lives near the location of the encampment.
But Johnson says that’s not the case, and now he’s having to pick up and start over somewhere else.
“I really don’t know,” Johnson said. “It’s just, I guess the next hurdle, I guess.”
A county spokesperson told News4JAX that the people living there were given time to collect their belongings, but they had to leave. The spokesperson said the residents were given information regarding resources they could contact for assistance.