Cleveland mayor calls judge's homeless order fair - ACLU suit FWD

Tom Boland (
Sat, 25 Dec 1999 16:07:04 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  Beacon Journal - Friday, December 24, 1999


Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A federal judge's order partially restricting how police
deal with the homeless is fair and allows for continuing enforcement on
downtown sidewalks, Mayor Michael R. White said Friday.

   The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday evening filed an
emergency lawsuit on behalf of four homeless men contending that the city
violated the constitutional rights of its estimated 3,000 homeless people.

   U.S. District Court Judge Paul R. Matia allowed police to continue
removing the homeless from a downtown area that includes Public Square,
where five people protesting the city's actions were arrested early

   The judge, however, issued a restraining order halting arrests for 20 days.

   ``The restraining order allows the homeless to take what heat they can
from steam grates located outside downtown,'' said Ray Vasvari, the ACLU's
Ohio legal director.

   Three weeks ago, White announced police would step up enforcement aimed
at panhandlers and street crime. Critics of the move have said it is aimed
at the homeless.

   ``While we are sympathetic to the plight of the homeless, we will
continue to enforce our laws as permitted by Judge Matia,'' White said
Friday in his response to the court order.

   ``We are pleased that we can continue to respect the rights of all
citizens, including those individuals who are coming downtown to work,
live, shop, visit or to enjoy the holiday season,'' White said.

   He pointed out that Matia's order defines a downtown central business
district where most of the enforcement had occurred, and it allows police
to prevent homeless people from sitting or sleeping on sidewalks in the
defined area.

   Brian Davis, director of Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, said
Friday homeless people still face the threat of arrest in the downtown area.

   ``By no stretch of the imagination could anyone conclude that threat is
anything but inhumane,'' Davis said Friday. The city, he said, is in the
midst of an ongoing shortage of shelter space.

   One of the homeless plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Lynn Key, 39, stayed at a
Salvation Army shelter Friday. He said he has been homeless on and off for
the past six years and was arrested a few weeks ago for disorderly conduct
while sleeping on a sidewalk.

   ``It's harassment,'' Key said at the shelter. ``It's like being homeless
is a crime. It's all just the mayor trying to keep the downtown revenue
going at Christmas time.''


See also:
AP homeless photos - constantly updating site
Articles & photos via Excite news search for "homeless AND Cleveland"

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