Friday, August 25, 2000

Homeless turned away from tent city under rail trestle

The Associated Press

        DAYTON, Ohio — A decision by police to dismantle a “tent city” that served as a refuge for the homeless came under fire Thursday.

        Police took down the tent city, which was under a downtown railroad trestle, and suspended the free meals distributed there Tuesday nights by the Helping Hands Ministries.

        “This is a slap in the face,” said Bill Robertson, administrator of Helping Hands.

        Mr. Robertson said the food giveaway had been in operation for 10 years and fed as many as 200 people. He said the police action came without warning.

        Mr. Robertson said he plans to move the giveaway to a parking lot a few blocks away, but that it will be less accessible to many people who come to the trestle.

        Jim Butler, executive director of the nearby St. Vincent shelter, said the tent city was in a place that was dark and unsupervised.

        “That area under the railroad track is not a healthy one,” he said.

        Mr. Butler said those who were living in the tent city can come to St. Vincent, which supplies homeless people with dinners every day. He said no one is turned away.

        Dayton police Sgt. Scott Stimmel said downtown workers who park in the area and some of the landowners complained that the makeshift community had grown too large.

        “We've had quite a bit of difficulty with trash and with people setting up their own tent city,” Sgt. Stimmel said.

        He said the owners of the tracks put up “No trespassing” signs and police are enforcing it. He said Helping Hands is looking for a new location.


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