William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Thu, 22 Sep 2005 08:18:58 -0400


Thursday, September 22, 2005
Courthouse facing dozens of homeless

Agencies wring hands over problems

By Kimball Perry kperry@enquirer.com
Enquirer staff writer

About two dozen people have taken the term public property literally when it
comes to the Hamilton County courthouse.

Homeless people are camping out on the courthouse property, sleeping on
benches and relieving themselves there, enraging one elected official and
forcing workers to hose down the area daily.

"I saw some guy (urinating) on the courthouse at 4 o'clock one day," Auditor
Dusty Rhodes said Wednesday. "Our courthouse should be treated with more
respect than that. It seems like the county has kind of been neglecting it
and letting them congregate."

There's not much that can be done, countered Steve Barnett, the Hamilton
County Sheriff's spokesman. "We're always having complaints about the
homeless out there at night since they are urinating and defecating on the
walls and ground," said Barnett, whose office is responsible for security at
county buildings. "We've had some increase in the complaints."

His office reports 15 to 25 homeless people currently use the courthouse
grounds at 1000 Main Street.

The sheriff's office has tried to have deputies patrol outside the
courthouse between midnight and 5 a.m. to roust people. "Of course, that's a
financial strain and we just don't have the money to do it all the time,"
Barnett said.

It's a personnel strain for Ralph Linne, director of facilities for Hamilton
County. "We have to clean up every day from the human waste and other
items - carpet, pop bottles, things like that."

Because Linne considers the courthouse and grounds historically a public
meeting place, he makes sure the area is cleaned thoroughly before the
public arrives. "It has been worse this summer than it has in the past. I
don't know why they like it here. It comes with the territory."

Not if you ask Rhodes. "It seems like the county has kind of been neglecting
it and letting them congregate," he said.

Rhodes said he was told the homeless increased at the courthouse when
Cincinnati police rousted them from other areas.

Cincinnati police spokeswoman Fran Cihon was unaware of any specific sweep
to oust homeless people, but said there are some areas where they converge.

"It's against the law to camp and live on public property. Officers are
sworn to enforce the law and they violate that oath if they turn away and do
nothing," she said. Police try to be humane, "but we also try to enforce the
law, protect public safety and hygiene."

Under a 2003 settlement agreement, Cincinnati police have to give the
homeless 72 hours notice before evicting them from public property or
arresting them.

Homeless advocates were slated to talk to the group living on courthouse
property early today to see if they can provide help.

"We've already discussed the consequences of them staying there. I'm not
sure what Hamilton County can do, but I'm sure they will do what they have
to do to get them out of there," said Gregg Pieples, chairman of the
Homeless Outreach Group.

His agency hopes to interview the courthouse group to get them any help,
such as medical or mental, that they might need.

E-mail kperry@enquirer.com

William Charles Tinker

New Hampshire Homeless  / Founded 11-28-99
25 Granite Street
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640  USA
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.