Future of land where homeless camp sits is up to property owners | News
PONTE VEDRA, Fla. -- E.J. Wall is a 20-year-old who visits and prays with the homeless in Jacksonville Beach and Ponte Vedra.
"I just preach the gospel and preach love," Wall said humbly.
He used to prayed with Luther -- also known as Lutea -- Hardmon.
"He was a really nice gentleman," Wall said.
Hardmon was the homeless 35-year-old who died after police say his girlfriend, Brenda Muniz, 28, stabbed him in a wooded area just behind the Target shopping center Sunday.
"It used to be a [homeless] camp with tents and thick brush, but now it's a vast open hangout," Wall explained.
Some of it is still wooded.
According to our research, the landowners of the six-acre parcel behind the shopping center are Southeastern Property and Perry Family Properties.
According to a public records search, Southeastern Property is managed by Toney Sleiman of Jacksonville and Perry Family Properties is made up of family members who live out of town.
Eva Zwack is with Perry Family Properties. On the phone Tuesday, she told First Coast News she knew there had been homeless people around the property in the past.
She also said there is a lawsuit between her family and Sleiman over creating a partition line on the property. Zwack said that as far as doing anything with the homeless on the property, "our hands are tied" because of the ongoing lawsuit.
FCN tried to reach Sleiman for comment, but did not hear back from him.
For now, police say they can't go onto the property without the owners' permission to tell the homeless they are trespassing.
So it appears the land -- for now -- will remain the way it is.
Wall described it as "an area for [homeless people] to hang out really."
Corporal Catherine Payne with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said homeless camps do not necessarily have more criminal activity. However, she said when a crime occurs within or near homeless camps, it grabs the public's attention.
While praying with and getting to know the homeless here, Wall said he's learned something he wants others to know.
"They're relatively really nice people. I've hung out with them. As most people do, they have their moments."