Homeless encampment sues Cincy

The city attempted to shut down The Colony but received a lawsuit in return

Photo courtesy of The Colony Facebook page | A man holds a sign while attending a press conference held by the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition on July 25 regarding the city’s decision to shut down an encampment on Third Street. The camp was shut down on Friday for two hours while the area was cleaned, and people have since returned to the location. A lawsuit is currently pending against the city.

Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Prosecuter Joe Deters are working together to put an end to the encampment of people experiencing homelessness on Third Street, between Main and Walnut.

The city gave the group of people, who call themselves The Colony, 72 hours’ notice before they would be cleaning the space entirely. City officials shut down the encampment on Friday at 2 p.m. for cleaning, but the community moved back in at 4 p.m. The city claimed that the reasons for shutting down The Colony were health issues, safety issues and economic impact. Deters and Cranley are currently working together to find a way to permanently shut down the encampment.

“There are valid points to (the city’s reasons for shutting down The Colony), which is why it’s such a tricky thing to talk about,” senior social work major Lauren Bailey said.

“I think health and wellness and everybody’s overall well-being needs to be taken into account and it’s important that that aspect is brought in. However, I don’t think it’s valid to use that as a reasoning for doing this when you don’t offer up viable solutions for the residents to use and take up. So when you’re saying, ‘we’re doing this for your well-being,’ while still not offering up affordable housing for them to move out of a tent and into a home, I don’t think you can justify it as being done for the well-being of these individuals.”

The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition responded to the attempt to clear out The Colony by filing a federal lawsuit claiming that the people living in The Colony are “engaged in symbolic political speech calling attention to the City’s affordable housing crisis.”

The lawsuit will be heard in federal court and revolves around the First Amendment, which grants free speech in public areas to all people in the United States.

“People have a human right to speak and to be seen,” Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said.

“You can’t get any more seen than here on Third Street. In fact, city officials have made it clear that part of the reason they don’t want people here is because they think it’s bad for business, for tourists… and we are saying no. People are here because they have no other place to be, and they have chosen this place because other people can see.”
Bailey agreed that there is a housing crisis and that something should be done to change it.

“I think there needs to be a more comprehensive response so that there is no longer a need for a tent city to exist,” Bailey said. “I don’t think anybody would ever say we should live in a society that encourages people to be living in tents, but that’s because I don’t think we should live in a society where people have that as their only solution.”

By: Kevin Thomas | U.S. & World News Editor