Thursday, April 25, 2002

Covington cleanup protested

Group sends Web message

By Cindy Schroeder,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A group calling itself the World Homeless Union sent e-mails this week calling for a global boycott of the city of Covington for its handling of homeless issues.

        However, Tristate and national advocates for homeless people say they haven't heard of the group.

        “The National Coalition for the Homeless has no idea who this organization is,” said Mark Teegarden. The Northern Kentucky resident is a volunteer for local agencies serving homeless people and a civil rights advocate who is working with the National Coalition for the Homeless.

        Last week, local advocates for the homeless criticized Covington officials for razing riverfront camps and removing personal possessions. City officials said they began the cleanup because the camps on city-owned property were a health and safety risk.

        In its e-mail, the World Homeless Union identified itself as an online association of more than 150 groups working for homeless rights throughout the world. A search of the Worldwide Web and a Lexis Nexis search turned up no references on the group.

        In a conference call Wednesday, representatives of the National Coalition for the Homeless and its Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati counterparts discussed the e-mail, but none had heard of the World Homeless Union, Mr. Teegarden said.

        “I've never heard of them and nobody else seems to know who they are either,” said Linda Young, executive director of the Covington-based Welcome House social service agency.

        The e-mail, which was addressed to Covington's elected officials, said that Covington had been added to the World Homeless Union's Global Boycotts for Homeless Rights list that also included the cities of New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Seattle.

        In its e-mail, the World Homeless Union said that Fort Lauderdale, Fla. was among the cities that had taken steps to avoid a global boycott call, after learning of the group's intent to impose sanctions.

        “I've been here 11 years, and I've never heard of the organization,” said Leslie Backus, a spokeswoman for the city of Fort Lauderdale. “I also doubt the city would change its (homeless) policies based on the threat of a boycott by a group like that.”

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