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Residents of 2018 Cincinnati encampments react to lawsuit settlement

Allen Howard, Leon "Bison" Evans and Cierra Burgan at Our Daily Bread in Over-the-Rhine discussing the settlement of a lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati for removing them from encampments downtown in 2018.
Nick Swartsell
/
WVXU
Allen Howard, Leon "Bison" Evans and Cierra Burgan at Our Daily Bread in Over-the-Rhine discussing the settlement of a lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati for removing them from encampments downtown in 2018.

Three people who were forced to move from camps in downtown Cincinnati while they were experiencing homelessness in 2018 reacted to the settlement of a lawsuit over the removal of those camps Tuesday.

At a news conference organized by the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, which filed the lawsuit against the city, Cierra Burgan, Leon "Bison" Evans and Allen Howard said they're glad the city has changed its policies around clearing camps, but also said the root causes of those camps remain.

Cincinnati agreed to the settlement June 5.

The legal fight originated in 2018 when the city moved to clear camps along Third Street Downtown. The camps simply moved locations after the city cleared them from a spot, and a series of court proceedings commenced, eventually making them illegal throughout Hamilton County.

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Under the settlement, a representative of the city manager's office must approach people living in an encampment prior to police to provide solutions to their lack of shelter. After that, police can approach, but can only charge the people staying in the camps if there are shelter beds available for them and they refuse to move. The people who are unhoused then have 72 hours to leave the camp.

Burgan, who has since found housing, says the settlement will do some good.

"In a way yes, but in ways, no," she said when asked if she thought the settlement would help those experiencing homelessness. "I feel like we need more structure, more shelters, and more agencies who are able to help."

She added she was recently laid off from her job and that she fears she could once again end up without a place to live.

Leon "Bison" Evans was another resident of the camps. He says he's glad there's closure to the experience, but also hopes more can be done.

"A lot of those people [who were in the camps] are no longer with us anymore, they've literally passed away," he said. "Some of them are still walking around, as we speak, homeless. I myself am still homeless. I'm just glad some kind of resolution was made. Hopefully from this we can do something more for the homeless."

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The number of people experiencing homelessness in Cincinnati increased slightly last year, data shows, and ticked up about 7% statewide.

The city admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, but agreed to pay $83,000 and to codify policies taking a different approach.

The city says it implemented these policies more than a year before the settlement was finalized. A spokesperson for the city pointed out work done by the city's Place Based Initiatives program and specific language in City Manager Sheryl Long's self-assessment last year discussing the polices.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.