Cincinnati City Council to Mull Delay for Downtown Camp Removal

Acting Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney says the city should relocate about 40 people living in a camp on Third Street by the end of the week. But Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard wants the city to take time to talk to them first.

click to enlarge A camp where about 40 people live underneath Fort Washington Way in downtown - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
A camp where about 40 people live underneath Fort Washington Way in downtown

Cincinnati City Council will hold a special meeting at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, July 19 to weigh a proposal from Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard that would delay removal of a camp near Third and Plum streets downtown. Acting Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney has ordered that the camp created by people experiencing homelessness be cleared by Friday morning, citing concerns about public health and safety. Dennard says that's too fast, however.

"Real engagement takes time," Dennard said. "We've got to react out of humanity. Not necessarily because people don't like the stench or look of homelessness."

Mayor John Cranley has indicated he opposes the delay.

"Acting City Manager Duhaney's decision to remediate the homeless encampment is made with the utmost consideration for the safety of the homeless individuals who are staying there, as well as people who live, work and visit downtown," Cranley said in a statement July 18. "Health department officials have confirmed an outbreak of Hepatitis, instances of HIV, and needle sharing. Police are conducting investigations into human and drug trafficking. This is a public health emergency and we are required to respond in a way that ensures safety. If we do not act immediately, we put everyone at risk. This is not a challenge that will be solved overnight. Mr. Duhaney is working to address this issue in a way that is both compassionate and practical."

On Monday, City of Cincinnati officials gave people living in camps near Third and Plum streets, including some living under a highway overpass, 72 hours to vacate the site.

In a memo posted Monday morning, Acting Cincinnati City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote that the move to relocate inhabitants of the camp comes because the site represents “public health and safety issues.”

Duhaney wrote that site will be fenced off and cleaned after the people staying there have moved. That is part of a longer process, Duhaney says, which will include helping inhabitants of the camp find housing and other support from social service organizations.

City officials posted written notices that morning at the site, and officers from the Cincinnati Police Department also notified those present at the camp in person. Residents must gather their belongings and vacate the camp within 72 hours, the amount of time the city is legally required to give them. Representatives from social service organizations were also at the site this morning providing health checkups, water and food.

Some living in the camp say they’d rather not move far from where they are now and are worried they’ll be split up from each other. One described those in the camp as “family.” However, many have said they would like to find permanent housing if possible.

In an earlier memo, Duhaney revealed that some who had complained about the camp suggested simply citing and arresting those living there if they didn’t move. Duhaney said he believed that was not the correct answer to the issue, but also wrote that individual arrests could take place on “a case-by-case basis.”

Following the move-out deadline, the city will sanitize the site and dispose of large items such as couches and mattresses. City workers will also collect items that are deemed personal belongings. Residents of the camp will be able to pick up those items at CPD afterward.

The city will then reconfigure the area so that people are not able to camp there again in the future, Duhaney’s memo says.

“The city anticipates a long-term solution that may include fencing, lighting and other landscaping materials to reshape the area to ensure it does not pose recurring health and safety concerns that arise in connection with large-scale homeless encampments (particularly in connection with sanitation problems and intravenous drug use at this location)."

Duhaney’s memo says the city will fund a temporary shelter for the inhabitants of the camp, and officials are working with Strategies to End Homelessness and other social service groups to find permanent housing options.

“This is just the first step in what is sure to be a long and complex undertaking,” Duhaney says in the memo.

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