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Homeless man told to move
Homeless guy mess.jpg
Johnny Mathis is pictured at his former encampment on the bypass next to Korner Market. - photo by Luke Cameron

A homeless man has been forced to find a new home.

Johnny Mathis, who had been camped out at the high-traffic corner of the bypass and Mullican Street across from Gondola, was forced to vacate the area by law enforcement on Wednesday.

Mathis had been squatting at that spot for a couple weeks and the growth of his encampment had caught the attention of several local residents who complained it was an inappropriate place for a homeless man to be allowed to live. It’s believed Mathis picked that very visible spot because of the number of donations he received from passing motorists. 

Since Mathis was camped on a state right of way, TDOT was contacted about this issue on Tuesday. TDOT spokesperson Jennifer Flynn confirmed that camping on state property is prohibited by state law. 

“If he is on a state right of way, local police or Tennessee Highway Patrol will have to address the issue,” said Flynn. “According to our senior associate counsel, this is a violation of Tennessee Code Annotated. 39-14-414(d). TDOT isn’t an enforcement agency so we rely on our law enforcement partners in cases like this.”

While local officers forced Mathis to move on Wednesday, McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton and Police Lt. Bill Davis showed their good hearts by splitting the cost of a motel room for him on Wednesday night. It’s not known where he will locate after that.

Lt. Davis noted that the fall and winter months are brutal for the McMinnville homeless population, which he says is larger in number than most people realize. Davis said that Mathis himself lost three toes to frostbite last winter.