Downtown Cincinnati Tent City Won't Relocate, Faces Removal Wednesday

A plan to relocate the camp at Third and Plum streets a day early has fallen through, leaving the fate of people living there unclear

Jul 23, 2018 at 12:30 pm
click to enlarge A camp on Third Street under Fort Washington Way - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
A camp on Third Street under Fort Washington Way

Last-minute relocation plans for a roughly 40-person camp near Third and Plum Streets have fallen through, and now the city of Cincinnati is slated to remove tents and personal belongings from the space under Fort Washington Way Wednesday, July 25.

Samuel Landis, co-founder of Maslow's Army, says the city went back on its part of a bargain he says was struck between acting city manager Patrick Duhaney and those living in the camp. But Duhaney says the agreement was never finalized.

"We have not agreed to support relocating anyone from the camp to anywhere other than a designated shelter and/or a more permanent housing situation. This plan does not include any city support for relocating individuals to a new or different camp," Duhaney said in a statement.

Landis yesterday said the camp where more than 40 people have been living under Fort Washington Way downtown would move the morning of July 24. He said the city manager's statement was unexpected.

"We are surprised and frustrated by the statement issued by the Acting City Manager," he said in a statement July 24. "As disheartened as we are, we remain more committed than ever to advocate for the human rights and basic needs of people experiencing homelessness and poverty, including those who want or need to live outside."

About half of the camp's residents were slated to go to another temporary camp east of downtown, Landis said. Another six residents have received housing certificates, and others will go to shelters, Landis says. Two will also join a jobs program through the Freestore Foodbank and will be moving into apartments next month.

"We're excited about the organizations who are coming out here," Landis says. "They're stepping up to the plate. This is a very peaceful resolution, and these people need that now. "

Landis declined to name the location of the new camp, but says he lived there for six years when he was experiencing homelessness.

"I remember how that felt," he says. "I remember the fear of having to go somewhere else. That's what drove me to stay down here and put up our tents here. This is not a one-size-fits all situation. This is a situation where each individual needs a set amount of time and we need to follow up with each of them."

The long-standing encampment drew attention two weeks ago when Cincinnati's Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney issued a memo calling for the camp's removal in response to complaints from downtown apartment and condo residents as well as local businesses. Originally, the camp was due to be cleared July 19, but Duhaney, council members and camp residents hammered out a compromise last week that delayed the removal while camp residents were consulted and options for other places to live were found.

The camp has been controversial, with Duhaney, Mayor John Cranley and some downtown residents calling it a public health and safety hazard. Residents of the tent city, however, say they are peaceful and keep drugs and violence out of the camp. The controversy reached a new apex online over the weekend after a news story reported that a person experiencing homelessness had overdosed in a portable restroom facility at the camp. That story was later taken down, and Landis says the overdose actually happened at another camp.

Federal counts in recent years have tallied roughly 8,000 people experiencing homelessness in Cincinnati — well more than the shelter and permanent supportive housing space available. Shelters are temporary solutions anyway, say advocates with organizations like the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

They point out that Hamilton County needs thousands more units of affordable housing available to low-income residents. A study from LISC of Greater Cincinnati released last year suggests that gap could be as high as 40,000 units. Solutions to bridge that deficit — an affordable housing trust fund recently established by the city, for example — could take years to bear serious fruit. In the meantime, finding and keeping affordable housing in the city can be fiendishly difficult.