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Homeless Denton Man Drowns When Flash Flooding Sweeps Away Encampment

A walker left by the tunnels, seen here on Monday, led some to worry about the homeless man who used it.
A walker left by the tunnels, seen here on Monday, led some to worry about the homeless man who used it.
Joe Pappalardo
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Three homeless men were living in a drain flume behind Walmart near Interstate 35 and University Drive in Denton when the flood waters struck. They’d been camping for some time, setting up tents and other items you’d expect to find at Ray Roberts Lake’s campground north of Denton.

Like the more than 200 homeless people who can be found camping in tents around the city, they’d been able to weather the heavy rain in the past, two of the men later told Denton fire officials.

But Sunday night was different. A weekend of storms had caused a stronger runoff, what the two men would later call a “wall of water.” It swept away their encampment, and their 60-year-old camping buddy, whom authorities won't identify publicly until his next of kin can be notified.

Denton Fire Department spokesman Kenneth Hedges couldn't be reached for comment.

Denton fire officials, joined by the Lewisville dive team, went to the scene about 9 p.m. and were calling it a rescue operation. They spent hours searching snake-infested waters behind Walmart to find the homeless man who wasn’t able to scramble out of the flood waters.

They found him after midnight in the murky waters of a retention pond.

Homeless advocate Courtney Cross, a director of homeless initiatives at United Way, told KTVT-TV (Channel 11) that with homeless programs and affordable housing taking a recent hit in funding, more people are finding themselves trapped in makeshift camps.

“It’s more than just someone we count on our [homeless] survey,” Cross said. “It’s more than just someone getting a hot lunch at our soup kitchen. It’s someone who the system has failed in one way or another.”

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