CINCINNATI – The decreasing number of homeless people forced to move from one street camp to another in recent weeks may have finally found a place to stay for some time.
Their new camp, which is located in a pocket park at 13th Street and Rue de la République, began Friday night on private property shortly after a judge banned their tents on public property throughout Hamilton County.
The owner told WCPO the group had not requested permission to camp there, but that they would not be evicted. In fact, the owner, Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, may be able to find them permanent housing.
“We have been doing this kind of work for about 40 years in this neighborhood, so this is not the first group of campers who have been on our property and it will not be the last,” said Housing Manager Andy Hutzel.
The Hutzel association has 450 housing units in the neighborhood, some of which are reserved for the homeless.
“Our role is, ‘Let’s engage them and see what kind of housing solutions we can come up with,” Hutzel said.
On Friday morning, the new camp consisted of half a dozen tents, a few chairs and a table.
Brian Garry, an advocate for the homeless, said “about 10 or 15” people were in the camp and their mood was “very calm, very happy”.
“People feel like we got a small victory because at least they can’t kick us out right now,” said Garry, president of the Human Services Coalition of the Faith Community Alliance.
“We rested last night for one of the first nights in a long time,” said a homeless man named Desmond. It was Desmond’s fourth camp in two weeks.
Desmond lived in the tent camp along Third Street and had been proclaimed “mayor” there by the campers. He said they moved into the new site on Friday night.
Having to repeatedly relocate the camp due to city and court orders has been difficult, Desmond said.
“You are losing properties, people are dispersing, now people who were receiving services and help, moving now, we have to go find them to continue with their help,” he said.
But Desmond also noted a positive outcome from their odyssey and the public attention that followed. They were able to connect with more services and shed light on the problem of homelessness in Cincinnati, he said.
“We have saved so many lives in the past two weeks with the care we have given. We are building bridges. We are bringing people together,” Desmond said. “There are a lot of services here that can help, but people are dispersed. By doing this, the services have offered other services and made things right.
“It’s a beautiful thing what’s going on,” he said.
At Desmond’s point, Sharon Watts of Forest Park told WCPO she brought tents and tap lamps for the new camp and said she was trying to get a portable toilet.
“Serving the community is something that excites me, so seeing this resort here made me stop and see if I could offer any service,” Watts said.
Watts said his work was in partnership with the city of Cincinnati to help find jobs for at-risk youth.
“I had received pop-up tents – pop-up tents for six people – at Traders World. I was collecting them in hopes of finding people on the decks to get them off the sidewalk,” Watts said.
When asked why she wanted to help, Watts replied, “It’s called paying it forward.”
“I haven’t always been able to do different things in my life until I was educated in college and was able to break free from poverty,” she said.
“Living in an impoverished world, we want to be able to pay as we gather information on how to survive. “
The people of the newer tent city know this is not a permanent fix. Their number is far fewer than the 50-something who lived along Third Street two weeks ago.
According to Kevin Finn of Strategies To End Homelessness, many other people who lived on the city’s streets have recently found refuge, even filling out applications for permanent housing.
“A number of people have been to shelters over the past two weeks. There have also been people who have been put into housing programs or into treatment programs of various kinds,” Finn said.
Finn and Hutzel said it won’t be long before the 13th batch and Republic are completely clear of the tents because people there will now have chosen one of those options.
There was an offer to move the homeless to Roselawn and the new Summit Center Campground at New Prospect Baptist Church, but this offer was declined.
“Most of the services that homeless people need to access are closer to the city center,” Finn said.
For now, defenders are helping camp residents complete paperwork that could lead to permanent accommodation.
“We are trying to understand exactly where they are in their housing situation, what obstacles they face and how we can help them,” Hutzel said.
One of the holdouts, named Stacey, says those left in the camp are trying to move on.
“What we get tired of is being like we’re garbage. We’re not garbage. We’re all human beings like all of you,” Stacey said.
Finn defended the city’s actions by forcing the camps off the streets, suggesting those who lived there benefited in the long run.
“It’s very often necessary to take a carrot and stick approach to these kinds of things by exerting some pressure to get people to change their situation and get off the streets – while still offering positive options,” said Finn. “This is how many people are no longer homeless.”
Garry insists that the way to end homelessness is to have more affordable housing. According to Garry, the roaming issue was the result of recent high-end development that caused people to leave Over-the-Rhine and Downtown.
“It’s a symptom of the disease of gentrification,” Garry said. “It’s the result of 25 years of city policies that have favored developers over people who need to be educated, who need help.
“The permanent solution is for the city to properly fund social services, for the city to properly fund affordable housing,” Garry said. “If the problem is homelessness, then the solution is housing.
After what appeared to be a two-week cat-and-mouse game, Judge Robert Ruehlman on Thursday banned homeless camps from public places – on one condition. Ruehlman said his order could only be carried out if there was enough space in the local shelters. The decree does not apply to private property.
The city ordered the removal of the downtown Third Street homeless camps two weeks ago, but upon their return, Mayor John Cranley turned to County District Attorney Joe Deters for help.
Deters got Ruehlman to grant a TRO banning tent dwellers in the central business district, saying drug use and sales linked to the homeless camps “caused immediate and irreparable harm to the surrounding community.” .
Some people who lived in the camps then moved to Reading Road near the JACK Casino. Deters then obtained another TRO barring them from the area between I-75 and I-71 north of the Norwood Lateral.
After leaving the casino area on Thursday, some people went to shelters, but about two dozen went one block east of I-71 and pitched tents on Gilbert Avenue across the street. by WCPO. The police peacefully cleaned up this camp on Friday evening.