[Hpn] ALERT: Baltimore activists feed HOMELESS by City Hall. Police detain server. fwd detain server. fwd

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Wed, 13 Dec 2000 16:10:06 -0800 (PST)

Baltimore ACTIVISTS defy edict & feed HOMELESS people near City Hall:

CIRCULATE PLEASE to nonviolent defenders of our Civil Rights
                 to help people in need & break bread with our neighbors:

ALERT: Help ECC serve FREE FOOD Mondays starting 3:30PM at City Hall
       in Baltimore!

       As Holiday Shopping begins, a City edict has declared
       "outdoor feedings" OFF-LIMITS dwontown near City Hall.

Environmental Crisis Center / Charles J. Swiden, Director
1936 East 30th St. (near Harford Rd.)
Baltimore., Maryland 21218
410-235-7110 (Linda, Charles or Chayim)
EMAIL "Rabbi Chayim Levin" <ChayimLevin@Hotmail.com>

FWD  Baltimore Sun - 13 December 2000


     Officials want site for aid to homeless away from City Hall
     Order is termed 'an insult'

     By M. Dion Thompson
     Sun Staff

Advocates for the homeless who have been feeding poor people in front of
City Hall for years say they will ignore Baltimore officials' request to
move to a downtown site near the state's prison complex.

City officials say the new location, on the southwest corner of Fallsway
and East Madison Street, provides greater safety and allows the city to
provide more services to the homeless. Officials plan to have social
service and outreach workers stationed at a city-owned trailer on the lot
beneath the Jones Falls Expressway.

"There was some unpleasant activity going on and some unsafe activity going
on outside City Hall, and that was the reason for changing the location,"
said Tony White, spokesman for Mayor Martin O'Malley. "It wasn't just
attracting homeless people. It was attracting an undesirable element that
was taking advantage of the homeless people."

But Charles J. Swinden, board president of the Environmental Crisis Center,
a Baltimore advocacy group for the homeless, rejected that argument and
vowed to continue handing out food in front of City Hall.

"If I want to feed people, I should be able to go anywhere I want to, and
they're telling me I can't," said Swinden, whose group has been feeding
people outside City Hall for 2 1/2 years. "I don't understand this. The
attitude is 'out of sight, out of mind.' They just can't sweep the homeless
under the rug."

The move is part of the city's new plan to deal with the homeless during
the winter months, city officials said.

Advocacy groups learned about the move and the city's desire to put
together a comprehensive list of agencies that help the homeless in a Nov.
29 letter from Leslie H. Leitch, director of the Office of Homeless
Services. The move took effect Dec. 4.

White said the city decided to review its policies after a city truck
accidentally ran over a homeless man who was obscured by steam as he slept
atop a manhole in the intersection of East Redwood and South streets. The
accident occurred just before 1 a.m. Nov. 22. The man has yet to be

"That was the final straw," White said. "He's still in the hospital. He's
not doing well."

The situation with the advocacy groups came to a head late Monday afternoon
when members of Swinden's group arrived at City Hall. Swinden said police
told them about the new location and tried to stop them from feeding the 20
to 30 people waiting for food.

"I said I was going to feed my brother here," Swinden said. "This is where
I told them I was going to be."

As Swinden's group dealt with the police, Brendan D. Walsh, co-founder of
Viva House, arrived to hand out sandwiches. Walsh, whose southern Baltimore
agency has helped the city's poor since 1968, was detained by police
briefly, but was not arrested.

White said city officials decided to let the groups proceed, rather than
have the evening end with police arresting people who had come to feed the

As police officers and advocates for the homeless clashed outside City
Hall, O'Malley explained the city's position to a television reporter.

"[It is] because of the garbage, because of the rats, because of the urine,
because of people being aggressively panhandled trying to come to do city
business," he told Fox 45 television news.

"The people that do provide that service do a great job, and we've set up
other locations where they can do it," the mayor said. "And we're also
trying to improve the way that we can help homeless people access services.
But we're not allowing it anymore."

When asked to address the complaints about the new location's safety,
O'Malley said: "If it's unsafe, I suggest that maybe they do it in Towson."

In addition to safety concerns, advocates point to the symbolism of being
moved from City Hall to a lot that is across the street from the Central
Booking and Intake Center and near state prisons.

"It's an insult to people to have them squarely facing the penitentiary and
the place where they execute people. City Hall is a public space for people
to meet," Walsh said. "If you can't go to City Hall, where would you go?"

In response to that question, White said: "To say that it's the house of
the people and therefore anything the people wish to do there should be
allowed, that's unrealistic."

Baltimore's homeless number about 2,400 to 3,000 men, women and children,
according to city officials. A February 1999 survey of people seeking
shelter found that 39 percent were women and children and 12 percent were

Swinden and Walsh said they would return next Monday to feed the hungry.
White conceded that both sides need to reach an understanding to prevent
any future confrontation, especially on Christmas, which falls on a Monday.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
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USEFUL LINKS & INFO for Baltimore media & outreach to supporters:

National Coalition for the Homeless
1012 Fourteenth Street, NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005-3405
Phone: 202-737-6444
Fax: 202-737-6445
Email: nch@ari.net
Web: http://nch.ari.net

LINKS to Maryland groups addressing homelessness

http://ajr.newslink.org/searchn.html (SEARCH newspapers & left-margin links)
http://ajr.newslink.org/mdnews.html (Baltimore among MD newspaper LINKS)
http://ajr.newslink.org/mdtele.html (MD TV & Radio links)

Baltimore Radio Talk stations: WBAL (1090 AM), WCBM (680 AM), WJFK (1300 AM)
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Newsroom (city desk): 410-332-6100

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9000+ articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people
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