Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Homeless to rally City Hall with concerns

List to be presented to mayor

By Cindy Schroeder, cschroeder@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — More than 250 homeless people and their advocates are expected to march on City Hall next week to draw attention to the concerns of Northern Kentucky's homeless.

        After a 9 a.m. rally in Goebel Park next Monday, the group will march to City Hall to present a list of concerns to Mayor Butch Callery. The group will return to Goebel Park for a cookout. Among the scheduled speakers are Donald Whitehead, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for the Homeless.

        “This march is being organized by Northern Kentucky homeless people who feel that their voice hasn't been heard,” said Mark Teegarden, a volunteer for the National Coalition for the Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project. “This is their attempt to draw attention to the causes of homelessness, the criminalization of the homeless, and offer recommendations for addressing their needs.”

        On May 20, eight homeless people who say they lost everything from family photos to work clothes sued Covington officials in federal court over the April 15 razing of camps along West Covington's Ohio riverfront.

        The next day, Mr. Callery cast the deciding vote against a proposed center that advocates said was designed to help homeless people become self-sufficient. Covington's mayor said he didn't disagree with the concept of the proposed Life Learning Center, but he said the location in the 1300 block of Madison Avenue was inappropriate.

        In joining Mr. Callery and Covington City Commissioner Jerry Bamberger in voting against the Life Learning Center, Commissioner Alex Edmondson vowed that Covington “shall not become the social services capital of the world.” He said city officials need to protect the commercial and residential integrity of their neighborhoods and can't let outsiders dictate major change.

        Officials in cities from Miami to Sacramento have maintained that homeless camps are a health and safety risk, while advocates for the homeless say sweeps such as the one in Covington leave people with no place to go.

        For now, the people who were living on Covington's riverbanks are moving on a daily basis to keep from being harassed Mr. Teegarden said. Covington police have denied harassing homeless people.

        Among the demands of Northern Kentucky's homeless are:

        • The creation of 50 emergency shelter beds in Northern Kentucky. There are only 14 emergency shelter beds here for men, Mr. Teegarden said.

        • The creation of support programs, such as the Life Learning Center, to help homeless people integrate into society; and the support of existing programs that address the root causes of homelessness.

        • An acknowledgement that life-sustaining activities such as sleeping or camping outdoors don't constitute criminal acts.

        The group also asks that Covington officials engage in a constructive dialogue with homeless people, and that issues such as free or low-cost day care and the creation of a shelter for couples without children be addressed.


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