Sunday, August 31, 2003

Homeless camp bulldozed for cars

City denies role in lot's clearing

By Stephenie Steitzer
and Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The belongings of several men living in a downtown encampment were bulldozed Friday to make room for Riverfest parking. The action came hours after Cincinnati officials and homeless advocates struck a proposed agreement that would settle a federal lawsuit over the rights of the homeless to live under bridges.

The city-owned spot, across from the Montgomery Inn Banquet Center along Pete Rose Way, was leased to a company for Riverfest parking, said Meg Olberding, spokeswoman for the city.

She said she did know how the men's belongings got buried. But when city officials were notified Saturday, assistant city manager Tim Riordan and community development director Peg Moertl went to the site, Olberding said. Riordan offered his own money to replace what the homeless men lost, she said. The men declined the cash.

"It was unfortunate timing," Olberding said.

Georgine Getty, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, called reporters to the site Saturday and showed where bedding, medication, clothing and books were buried in a pile of dirt and rock.

"I want to know who is responsible and I want to know why," she said. She said she expects answers from the city on Tuesday.

"We're going to try to fight this," said Glenn Dominy, 42, who lives under the bridge and lost his belongings.

Cincinnati police did not move the belongings, said spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd.

The police have repeatedly said since the settlement talks started weeks ago, that they would not do any sweeps of the encampments while discussions were pending.

Officials from the coalition and the city have been working toward settling a lawsuit filed in July on behalf of Donald Henry, who lived under an Interstate 75 bridge along Third Street.

Attorney Jennifer Kinsley's suit said the city, after police posted No Trespassing signs under several overpasses downtown, was depriving homeless people of their rights. It also challenged the city's two anti-panhandling ordinances.

E-mail ssteitzer@enquirer .com and

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