Now, Anne Arundel County has ordered the homeless to leave the site by April 3 — the second time in about a year there's been a push to clear the site.
County agencies and nonprofit organizations — the Department of Social Services and the nonprofit Arundel House of Hope among them — are trying to connect the homeless people there with shelters and other services. Several people from the groups have visited the site repeatedly, distributing fliers and offering help, and more visits are planned.
"Ultimately, we think we are taking the most humane route possible," said Erik Robey, chief of staff for County Executive John R. Leopold.
The current effort was sparked by complaints from the management of the neighboring shopping center, and it comes after meetings among county officials, shopping center representatives, groups that offer help to homeless people and others.
It also comes as the county prepares for its Homeless Resource Day on March 31 at Glen Burnie High School, where services from haircuts to medical help will be available, said Marcia Kennai, director of the county Department of Social Services.
The encampment includes a few neatly kept tent areas, some with small barbecue grills. But there's trash strewn around, lots of empty alcohol bottles, and bags and shopping carts stuffed with clothing.
Barely visible even when trees are bare, the encampment is hidden from the street when the foliage grows lush in spring.
This campsite, home lately to an estimated 15 to 20 people, is where Jason Bamburg, 31, has lived off and on since 2006, first in a tent and bunking since last year with a friend in the friend's camper. A solar panel attached to it draws enough power to run a few lights.
Asked where he'll go, Bamburg shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. There's a lot of us got to figure that out."
Bamburg said a few people have left, but he didn't know where they went.
He doesn't want to go far because he walks to his job at a store in the shopping center across the street — the same shopping center whose management complained to county officials. He plans to reopen his warm-weather weekend carwash, too. But he takes home less than $280 a week, putting apartments out of financial reach, he said.
Mario Berninzoni, executive director of the Arundel House of Hope, which provides shelter and other help to homeless people, said the issue is broader than what to do about one of more than a dozen homeless encampments in the county.
"Our biggest concern is that there is no place for them to go," he said, saying some may head for shelters for brief stays or move to another homeless campsite.
"Some of these people have lived there for over 12 months. It's home to them," he said. Also, at least one woman there has a cat, and finding a shelter that also would welcome the pet is expected to be difficult. Some of the homeless have mental health problems or addictions that keep them out of shelters, he said.
The issue of the homeless campground, behind Eighth Avenue near Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, came to a head earlier this year. The management of Cromwell Field Shopping Center, located at that intersection, contacted Leopold seeking help with some problems it laid to two of its neighbors: the homeless camp across Eighth Avenue and the light rail's Cromwell station across Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard. Among the problems were panhandling, loitering and crime.
A spokesman for the shopping center could not be reached for this article.
Robey said employees from the health, planning and zoning departments went out to the site, noted the problems and contacted the property owner, Cromwell Farms Inc., which asked the county for help removing people who are trespassing there. The property owner could not be reached for comment.
Residents were ordered off the private property about a year ago after the fatal stabbing nearby of a man who lived in the tent city. But the site was quickly repopulated.
People who don't leave could face trespassing charges, but Robey said he hopes the area can be cleared without doing that.
Capt. William R. Krampf, commander of the Northern District Police Station, said he does not expect to issue citations, just to escort people off private property and ensure that the tent city is not re-established.