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Hidden encampments create community for those without homes

The pathway to the camp is lined with hundreds of beaten, blemished bike tires; crushed aluminum cans and cracked bottles; frayed, dirt-soaked stuffed animals with missing eyes and tattered sheets flapping in the wind.

At first glance, it’s reminiscent of a deserted battleground — torn flags flapping in the breeze, ashes from fire pits burnt down to their dying embers — but just beyond the desolate stretch of trampled land, the camp is very much alive.

The entrance to the expansive homeless encampment

An expansive homeless encampment that is home to roughly 20 residents is hidden underneath an overpass in eastern Columbia.

Paul Powell cleans up a section of his camp

Paul Powell cleans up a section of his camp Dec. 13 in Columbia. “I would say, right now, one of the biggest things that would help everybody and the community and the environment is a stack of those highway department (trash) bags that they’ll pick up,” Powell said. “Man, we’d clean all this up here up.”

Tabi cooks hamburgers and green peppers for residents of the homeless encampment

Tabi cooks hamburgers and green peppers for residents of the homeless encampment Dec. 16 in Columbia. The people living at the camp get fresh food from food banks, shelters and nonprofits in Columbia.

Jaclyn Basey poses for a portrait near the tent that she shares

Jaclyn Basey poses for a portrait near the tent she shares on Dec. 13 in Columbia. Basey recently moved to Columbia and resettled with Paul Powell, a long-time resident at the homeless encampment.

Bryan exits his tent at a secluded section of the homeless encampment

Bryan exits his tent at a secluded section of the homeless encampment Dec. 16 in Columbia. Residents at the camp pool resources, food and money to survive as a community.

Rabbit rides a trail to Bryan’s camp

Rabbit rides a trail to Bryan’s camp Dec. 16 in Columbia. Rabbit is one of the leaders of the homeless encampment and recently set up a line of solar panels so residents could charge their electronics.

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