Brookhaven officials and Suffolk County police removed dozens of makeshift tents Thursday from a homeless camp in Coram where drugs and prostitution had been reported, officials said.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said at least 50 people had been living in the camp deep in the woods off Middle Country Road. Police and town workers arrived early Thursday to begin removing “a couple of tons” of material such as blankets, mattresses and debris, he said.
In a telephone interview, Romaine described the scene as “disgusting” and “one of the largest homeless camps I’ve seen.”
“This is no way to house these people,” he said, adding he would ask the county Department of Social Services to locate camp residents and find emergency housing for them.
Romaine said the camp’s residents had fled before authorities arrived and no arrests were made.
Suffolk police had no immediate comment.
Photographs provided by Brookhaven Town showed blankets, towels and clothes hung from tree branches and wires to form makeshift tents in which people slept.
A Brookhaven spokesman said the camp was partly located on undeveloped property owned by the town. The rest of the property is privately owned.
Town Councilman Michael Loguercio, who represents Coram, said residents had filed about 50 police complaints about problems linked to the camp, such as prostitution and people stealing shopping carts or going through trash cans. He said police frequently had been called to break up fights there.
He said investigators Thursday found hypodermic needles at the camp. Large sofas, tables and chairs and children’s clothing also were at the site, though it was not clear whether children lived there, he said.
“We don’t want to kick them out. That’s not what we want to do. We’re trying to relocate them to more humane facilities,” Loguercio said. “We don’t want to put a Band-Aid on this. We want to find solutions.”
Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association, said homeless camps had appeared sporadically on Middle Country Road during the past two years. A camp had appeared in June, near the town-owned Mott House and a county social services office, she said.
She said homeless people may be attracted to the area by local stores and a wooded area that hides them from public view.
“People don’t see them as well when it’s all green in there,” she said. “It’s an ongoing problem.”
She said she was concerned about the camp residents’ welfare and hoped officials could find homes for them.
“You really hope that as a society we could help these people and not have them living in the woods,” Lynch-Bailey said. “The answer is trying to get people help.”