COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — What started as a few campers parked outside the Home Depot in Coventry has grown exponentially over the past few weeks.
There is now a community of more than a dozen campers in front of the home improvement store off Centre of New England Boulevard.
Misty McClendon and her husband have been living there for the past month. The couple decided to sell their Cranston home after their children moved out.
“We decided we were going to downgrade,” she explained. “My husband is a disabled veteran.”
McClendon said the downgrade helped them pay off her husband’s medical bills.
The McClendons said the camping community was never bothered until last week when everyone woke up to eviction notices on their camper doors.
The notices stated that the campers must pack up and vacate the parking lot by 8 a.m. Wednesday.
“Overnight parking is not permitted. Parking in this lot is for customers of Home Depot only,” the eviction letter reads. “Vehicles left overnight are subject to being towed at the owner’s expense. No additional warning will be given prior to towing.”
“I didn’t feel homeless, but now I do,” McClendon said. “There’s just not enough time, but unfortunately, this is the situation. This is not a public area.”
McClendon and her husband plan to head to either Goddard Memorial State Park or the Arcadia Management Area.
The McClendons aren’t alone. Louis Pfanstiehl has been parked outside Home Depot since March 2022. He told 12 News the more attention the campers received, the more problems arose.
“It turned into a campground,” Pfanstiehl said. “It was no problem at first.”
Pfansteihl believes some of the more recent campers “…were taking advantage of the situation.”
“At the end of the day, it’s a business,” he said. “You can’t bump out, put chairs outside, litter … [some campers] were leaving trash in [shopping] carts and hanging laundry outside.”
12 News reached out to Home Depot, to which a spokesperson replied: “We don’t allow overnight parking in our parking lot. We’re taking steps to make that clear and we’ll work with local law enforcement to take appropriate action.”
The Rhode Island Department of Housing said the state is aware of the situation and will be facilitating outreach to those who need help relocating.