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Hamilton County Wants Homeless Camp Lawsuit Thrown Out

Bill Rinehart
Police and Cincinnati officials prepare to disband a homeless camp that moved near the casino after being displaced from Third Street in August 2018.

Hamilton County's prosecutor is asking an appellate panel to throw out a lawsuit seeking to overturn a ruling banning homeless camps.In the filing, the prosecutor's office argues the ACLU of Ohio and New Prospect Baptist Church lack standing in the case.

The ACLU of Ohio filed suit earlier this month on behalf of the church arguing Judge Robert Ruehlman's order this summer banning homeless camps is overly broad and prevents the church from being able to help people experiencing homelessness. The issue arose after the City of Cincinnati sought a legal means of permanently clearing a camp along Third Street downtown.

The county's response filed Monday says the church may allow the homeless to set up tents on its property as long as they are "properly spaced so that they are not a fire hazard" and there is access to running water and restrooms. However, it continues, once the camp was reconstituted on the church's property, "the unavailability of toilets, the unsanitary conditions, and safety risks were replicated in a matter of days, all in violation of existing Ohio law. Additionally, drug use and sales also was [were] present at the site on private property."

The Back Story

A homeless camp sprang up along Third Street earlier this summer, prompting health and safety complaints from some and calls for more help for the homeless from others. Cincinnati officials were met with resistance when plans were made to clear the camp.

The Third Street camp was dismantled and the site cleaned, but the inhabitants soon returned. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley then asked County Prosecutor Joe Deters to take action.

Deters filed for a temporary restraining order to keep the camp out of Downtown, which Judge Ruehlman granted on August 6. After inhabitants moved to a plot of land near Jack Casino, the order was expanded to include a larger area. Ultimately the judge issued an order banning encampments in the entire county.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.