Washington denies locking up homeless (fwd)

P. Myers (mpwr@u.washington.edu)
Mon, 26 Apr 1999 21:29:53 -0700 (PDT)

more mean sweeps...right into jail.  pat myers

University District.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 9:42:15 PDT
From: UPI <C-upi@clari.net>

WASHINGTON, April 24 (UPI) -- City police denied stepping up their
arrests of homeless people to help clean the view for the dozens of heads
of state and the hundreds of other dignitaries attending this weekend's
NATO summit.

Police issued a flat denial of any special effort after the director of
mental health services at the Washington, D.C., city jail reported seeing
a near-doubling of the number of homeless and mentally ill people
arrested in recent days.

Andrea Weisman, director of mental health services at the D.C. jail, told
The Washington Post the jail's mental health unit had 69 admissions in
the three months from January to April 1, and another 32 admissions in
the three weeks since April 1.

``There is no question in my mind, this is because of the sweeps related
to NATO,'' Weisman told the Post.

But the city police spokesman, Sgt. Joe Gentile, denied any specific
effort to remove the homeless in advance of the summit, telling United
Press International: ``We have no such operations.''

Asked what explanation could lie behind the numbers cited by Weisman, he
said: ``I have no idea what she's talking about.''

Weisman said at least 11 of the 32 people admitted this month to the
jail's mental health unit are homeless, but she said the number could be
higher because inmates sometimes give the address of a relative.

Washington Mayor Anthony Williams, who received a letter from downtown
religious leaders asking about the city's treatment of the homeless in
advance of the NATO summit, promised to investigate the matter.

``We will look into this to make sure we did the good and right thing,''
said the mayor's press secretary, Peggy Armstrong.

Police also have cleared everyone from the streets surrounding the summit
site at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center,
setting up barriers and allowing entry only by people with NATO- issued

Officials told the Post that several homeless people left the area when
asked, and that only one man refused and was forcibly moved.


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