Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Meanest Guy in the State

Cincinnati Hates Homeless People

We don't get a lot of news from that geographically misplaced city of Cincinnati (should be located below the Mason Dixon), but here is a story that ran last week about a homeless sexually based offender trying to stay warm. Cincinnati politicians get elected by promising to get rid of poor people and the debates are between two candidates who attempt to be more hateful than the other guy. Here is an example:

Offender Sues for the Right to Shelter

A 57-year-old sex offender told a judge Friday that he might freeze to death because a state law bars him from a Cincinnati homeless shelter located near a school.

Larry Winslow, who has been homeless for five years, sued in U.S. District Court to block enforcement of the law so he can seek refuge at the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine.

The law he is challenging forbids convicted sex offenders from living in homes, apartments or shelters within 1,000 feet of schools or day-care centers.

"Mr. Winslow is struggling just to survive in the cold this winter," Winslow's attorney, David Singleton, wrote in the lawsuit. "He fears that he will die in the cold weather if he cannot get shelter."

The lawsuit says Winslow recently was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.

The suit is the latest challenge to Ohio's restrictions on sex offenders and where they may live.

Several suits have been filed in Cincinnati and around the state, but so far judges have deemed the law valid.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who is named in Winslow's lawsuit, said the law is constitutional. "I feel bad for him," he said of Winslow. "I know it's cold outside, but we have to enforce the law.

"There is no constitutional right to warmth."

Last year, Deters' office notified the Drop Inn Center that the shelter no longer could allow sex offenders to live there because the building is located within 1,000 feet of a school.

Winslow's lawyers could not be reached Friday, but the lawsuit says he was convicted of sexual battery in 1994 and 1996 in cases involving adult female prostitutes.

The suit states that he spends most nights on the streets and occasionally seeks refuge at the downtown Greyhound bus station. Usually, though, he is told to leave or face arrest, the lawsuit says.

"There is no rational basis to prohibit sex offenders from sleeping, at night, at a homeless shelter that happens to be within 1,000 feet of a school," the lawsuit says. "No child protection interest is served."

The suit asks Judge Sandra Beckwith to declare the law unconstitutional and to issue an order that would allow Winslow to immediately seek shelter at the Drop Inn Center.

Joe Deters was hounded by scandal out of state office then elected by the good people of Cincinnati to be the lead advocate for interpreting laws that he had trouble following while in the State Executive Branch. He said, "There is no constitutional right to warmth," which in the civilized world would be the end of your political career, but in Cincinnati is a campaign slogan for re-election. In other words, "I feel bad for him, but we are not responsible when he dies on the streets." That is a rough city to be homeless, and certainly one of the meanest cities in the United States toward poor people.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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