Sunday, June 10, 2007

Last Days of the Tent City

Drifters Must Move on Again...

They were told to leave from the Convention Center, and now it is very difficult to stay on Public Square for a many reasons. So, this weekend the men and women gathered under the Shoreway are asked to leave another spot. First, I have to put a few things on the table. I have to say that this is not a Tent City. The Israelis know how to do a tent city, 15 tents is not a city. This is not a settlement, and I am not sure that this is even a Tent Township. It is, however, the largest number of tents that I have ever seen together in Cleveland. It does not compare to the nearly 100 tents in Seattle, Portland or Denver tent cities.

I know that a bunch of volunteers helped these couples with locating the tents. If you decide to construct a tent city in the future:

  1. Have plenty of lawyers on hand before starting.
  2. Do it on public land that does not have a purpose or private land that has been left to deteriorate. This current property is neither.
  3. If you don't want community attention don't gather more than 3 or 4 tents in the same area.

We did a series on tent cities in the Grapevine way back in the early part of 2000, and talked to people who sleep outside. At that time, we asked people about sleeping in a tent city, and many felt that they wanted to be left alone. They did not want to be near a bunch of people for their own safety (the same reason they were not in shelter.) There is a feeling of empowerment to construct a set of rules for clean up, and basically to construct a governing structure when a bunch of tents are in the same area. In other cities they have a strict code of conduct, and they have a law enforcement component built in to the tent city. For advocates, at the end of the day, these people still deserve a place inside to live. They will not go into shelter so the government (We the People) has/have an obligation to provide other alternatives. Right now in Cleveland, we have a choice between shelter and the streets. We have a wait of 3 to 5 years for non-disabled and non-senior housing. Advocates should not actively construct tent cities, but if one develops the City needs to have a better response then "Go to shelter!" In other words, if these tents annoy the City then provide these couples and these men with a house to live in.

The City did give about three weeks notice to this group to move, but has yet to propose a real solution. The issue is that so many people come downtown to feed people, and these guys need to be close to Public Square in order to have access to the food. We have a meeting with the City to talk about food distribution on Tuesday. I am sure that the tents will come up. We will see and report back.

Breaking News...
The Skittles analogy from the previous post got me a spot on one of the upcoming Ideas program on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm. replayed on Sunday at 11 a.m. on WVIZ/PBS talking about the Emerald Commons project and supportive housing.

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

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