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Bulldozer cleans up Myrtle Beach area homeless camp after fire

A couple were pushed from their homeless camp off Jason Boulevard when the Horry County Solid Waste Authority used heavy equipment to clean up it's property on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Mark Anthony Mencini and Sonya Jo Dunkle said they had been living on the property for six months and misunderstood signs announcing the clean up. 
"Home is where you make it, we are just having to get what we can and skedaddle," Mencini said.
A couple were pushed from their homeless camp off Jason Boulevard when the Horry County Solid Waste Authority used heavy equipment to clean up it's property on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. Mark Anthony Mencini and Sonya Jo Dunkle said they had been living on the property for six months and misunderstood signs announcing the clean up. "Home is where you make it, we are just having to get what we can and skedaddle," Mencini said. jlee@thesunnews.com

Ruffling through her belongings in the woods as a county bulldozer is feet away, Sonya Jo Dunkle scooped up clothing and other belongings in her makeshift home Wednesday morning.

Her boyfriend Mark Anthony Mencini pushed a shopping cart away from their home, trying to save their things before it all goes into a dumpster.

"We're just having to get what we can and skedaddle," Mencini said.

The two have been at the site, just off U.S. 501 near U.S. 17, for the last six months. On that property were two separate homeless camps with belongings strewn about. The Horry County Solid Waste Authority owns the site.

The couple was gone for about a week while Mencini was in the hospital. They thought a sign put out by solid waste warning about a clean up didn't apply to them if they were home.

But it did.

A bulldozer moved in about 9 a.m. Wednesday and began picking up all of the clothes, trash and tents and began putting it into a dumpster.

"We've just got to let it go," Mencini said. "It's all going into the dump."

On Jan. 25, the homeless camp beside Dunkle and Mencini's shelters caught fire. It alarmed the motorcycle and engine repair businesses just feet away. Employees threw buckets of water on the flames to make sure the fire didn't reach the building.

Owner of the building, Mike Steele, said homeless people have lived in the woods beside his building just off Jason Boulevard for the last ten years. Steele said holes have been cut in his fence and those who live in the woods have come into his business to fill water jugs.

"I tell them to get out of here," Steele said. "It don't make no difference."

But Mencini, 60, has made his home in the woods near Myrtle Beach for the last two years.

Danny Knight, director of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority, said he didn't know there were people living on the site until the fire.

"The only thing to do was to give them an opportunity to move their goods and materials somewhere else," Knight said, noting the authority gave them "plenty" of time to gather their stuff. "I didn't want to throw it away, that's probably all they've got."

Knight said what amazed him about the property was the condition.

Mencini said the property had been ransacked during the week they were gone.

The area had several shopping carts, clothing hanging from tree limbs, tents, trash and food.

Knight said crews cleaned up brush in the area after the fire. And about three years ago, a building on that site that used to bundle recyclables was torn down to heighten the value of the property.

Horry County and the City of Myrtle Beach officials currently have no plans to clean up any other homeless camps.

The city plans to revisit homelessness "in the next couple of months," said Mark Kruea, spokesperson for the city. He said council is looking to update its homeless resolution.

"Living in the woods is not an option," he said. "We offer assistance for those folks who want to get back on their feet."

Kruea said homelessness can't be "completely eliminated."

The county partners with Eastern Carolina Homeless Organization to help address homelessness, and the city works with New Direction.

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