Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Bulldozing imperils homeless deal

By Dan Horn and Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Homeless advocates blamed Cincinnati officials Tuesday for scuttling a deal that would have settled a lawsuit over homeless people living on city property.

Lawyers on both sides say talks were going well and a settlement appeared imminent until a homeless encampment was bulldozed Friday to make room for Riverfest parking.

Now the deal is in limbo while the sides try to figure out what happened and what to do next.

"This has definitely put a question in our minds as to how trustworthy the city is," said Jennifer Kinsley, who filed the federal lawsuit in July.

Although the lot where the homeless people were living is city property, city officials say they did not order the bulldozing. The property along Pete Rose Way was leased to a private company.

Destruction of the encampment came just hours after negotiators for the city and the homeless agreed in principle to settle the lawsuit. The deal would have required the city to give the homeless 72 hours' notice before evicting them from city property.

Kinsley said she and other homeless advocates will decide this week whether to resume talks or take their case to court.

Mayor Charlie Luken said he had concerns even before the talks broke down.

"We cannot waive our right to enforce the law," Luken said. "If, on our own, we wanted to give 72 hours notice before we destroy or move an encampment, that's fine. But there may be times when we can't promise that."

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