Thursday, April 25, 2002

Fund drive to help homeless

Group says personal items taken in sweep

By Cindy Schroeder,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — As city officials resumed their cleanup of riverfront homeless camps Wednesday, a local group announced a fund drive to help the displaced residents.

        The Recovery Network of Northern Kentucky is sponsoring the drive to replace items that were lost in last week's riverfront sweep, said James Coleman, the director of the private, non-profit Covington-based agency that offers computer-technology services to people who are living with mental illness or are homeless. Items replaced with the fund could include clothing, shoes, tents and medicine, he said.

        “These people have lost everything,” Mr. Coleman said. “They've lost clothes, they've lost medicine. They've lost family pictures.”

        City officials have denied taking any personal items, except for anything that could be construed as housing and items deemed a health hazard.

Federal lawsuit planned

        On Wednesday, an inspector from the Northern Kentucky health department checked the camp for possible health violations, Mayor Butch Callery said. Health-department representatives could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

        Any money raised also will be used to help pay the legal fees in a federal lawsuit that 10 of the displaced individuals plan to file next week over the loss of their possessions, said Mark Teegarden, who volunteers for agencies serving homeless people. Also covered by the fund will be the transportation of those individuals to and from their lawyers' office.

        Mr. Coleman said that Mr. Teegarden will screen all applicants for the Riverbank Homeless Fund and will decide on a case-by-case basis which items will be replaced.

        “The purpose is not to gather a bunch of money and pass it out to (the displaced people),” Mr. Teegarden said. He said the fund would be used to meet immediate needs of the homeless people by purchasing items such as medicine or clothing needed for their jobs.

Alternatives sought

        Mr. Callery called on social-service agencies to be part of a comprehensive solution to homelessness. He said they need to do more to help people find alternatives to living on the city-owned riverbank, where he said they pose a safety and liability risk.

        During the past week, advocates for the homeless have said they've done the best they could with limited resources.

        “If they're just going to provide food and clothes and tents, that's not going to help anything,” Mr. Callery said of the Recovery Network's fund drive. “I think these agencies need to be part of the solution. They need to get down there and try to find suitable housing for these people and not let them live the way they've been living.”

Churches pitch in

        The Rev. Eric Snider, pastor of the Garrard Street Church of Christ in Covington, said Wednesday he will mention the fund drive to his congregation.

        “We'd probably donate specific items,” Rev. Snider said. “We have a food pantry. I don't feel we're getting dragged into the situation. We're interested in the outcome of the proceedings. I'm sure we have people who sit on both sides of the issue.”

        The Rev. Jeremy Robinson, pastor of Open Door Community Church of God on Turkeyfoot Road in Erlanger said, “We are planning to make a monetary donation. The homeless need help.”

        Contributions for the Riverbank Homeless Fund can be sent to the Recovery Network of Northern Kentucky, 513 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky. 41011. Please note on checks that the money is for the homeless fund. For information, call (859) 431-2134.

        Ray Schaefer contributed to this story.

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