VIRGINIA BEACH, Va, (WAVY) — It’s been said that no good deed goes unpunished. A Virginia Beach landowner is finding that out the hard way after he tried helping some people who were homeless by letting them set up camp on a piece of his land.
After eight years, the city had other plans, and they now want the homeless people out.
The property owner is Ron Deangelis. In Italian his last name means “The Angel.”
In many ways, Deangelis is an angel for homeless people — a guardian angel who only wants to improve their quality of life.
We met Deangelis on his property at the electric utility pole in front of thick woods that hide what’s behind it.
“It was foolish … for them to have a gas-powered portable generator… I said you pay me the electric utility bill at the end of each month — which they have been doing for the past umpteen number of years. I’m happy, and they’re happy…why ruin it?” he said.
Seven years ago, Deangelis put up the electric utility pole for the people camping out on his property.
Deangelis says the City of Virginia Beach claims in a summons to appear in court that Deangelis “unlawfully permits ongoing homeless encampment on property.”
“I don’t understand it myself. They’ve been here eight years, what’s wrong with it? The city told me the homeless people have to go,” he said.
He then took us back to the camp where six people now live.
“Andy Fox is coming to pay a visit,” he announced as we found our way around a clean camp.
There are four tents and a tarped common area. No trash on the ground. Clean. Usually about six people come back to the area.
You cannot see the camp from Birdneck Road, and they can’t see out. There is only one abutting property that can see one of the tarped structures. We met one neighbor who says he contacted the city, not out of concern, but out of curiosity. He also mentioned sometimes you can hear the camp’s residents talking.
You can see where the appliances are plugged into an outlet, and they have a top-line freezer where the hamburger was so frozen if you knocked on it your knuckles hurt.
Deangelis got a notice of violation that the property is zoned “Business-2,” so he then moved the camp to the part of his property that’s “Residential 10,” which is medium density.
He claims when he went back in to tell the zoning department the residents had been moved to R-10 side of his property, a receptionist at the counter said that would be fine. Later, a zoning inspector contacted Deangelis and said that was not true, and that the zoning ordinance says no recreational camping.
Deangelis points out what he thinks is most important.
“They are happy here. What’s the big deal? I want them here,” he said.
Clifton James is emotional about the possibility he may have to leave the camp.
“That’s a damn shame that somebody is trying to help the homeless people out of having a good heart, and they want to take my landlord to court,” he said.
“Here’s what I want,” Deangelis told us. “I want the city to leave them alone… They haven’t created any problems in the last eight years… They are happy with the way they are living.”
We reached out to the City of Virginia Beach for comment and as of 7 p.m. Thursday there was no comment. We also left a message for the zoning inspector who took out the complaint. Two calls were not returned.
Deangelis will be in court Monday at 2 p.m. 10 On Your Side will be there too.