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Judge Makes Homeless Move A Second Time, Banning Them From A Wide Area Of The City

Bill Rinehart
Police and city workers moved in to one of the camps along Third Street, Tuesday morning.

For the second time in less than 24 hours, a Hamilton County judge has ordered homeless people who had vacated a camp on Third Street to leave the new camp they established Monday night on Central Parkway across from Jack Casino.

The amended temporary restraining order signed by Judge Robert Ruehlman takes in a much larger area than the one he previously signed, which included the Central Business District.

This order tells the homeless people they can't set up camp in an area stretching from the Norwood Lateral in the north to the Ohio River in the south, and anywhere between Interstates 75 and 71.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters asked for the amended temporary restraining order Tuesday and Ruehlman signed it without holding a hearing. There is a hearing, which will include lawyers for the homeless, set for 9 a.m., Aug. 20 in Ruehlmann's courtroom.

"We had to deal with this,'' Deters told WVXU. "We were getting complaints from people in the area right out of the gate."

Deters said Cincinnati Police were sent to the Central Parkway camp about 1:30 p.m. to tell the people there they had to clear out.

Bennett Allen, a lawyer for the homeless people, was stunned when told of the amended order, saying the prosecutor's office did not inform them they were going to try to expand the off-limits area.

Allen said he planned to go to court sometime before the end of business Tuesday to file for a temporary restraining order to put Ruehlman's order on hold.

Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU
Tuesday morning, most of the people who had been living in tents along Third Street had already moved somewhere else, including near US Bank Arena, and Jack Casino.

Monday night, after a meeting with Allen and homeless advocates, about two dozen homeless people obeyed a court order and cleared out of their camp on Third Street.

The temporary restraining order issued Monday was the result of Deters filing a civil nuisance action with Hamilton County Monday morning. Ruehlman signed a temporary restraining order to have the camps cleared immediately.

"This is a serious problem,'' said Deters, who was asked Friday by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to get involved in the on-going controversy over the tent village of homeless people that has built up on Third Street in recent months.

"You just can't live on public property like that,'' Deters told WVXU. "John Cranley is behind me on this."

Cranley asked the prosecutor to take action last Friday after city employees cleared out the camp and power-washed the area. Once that was done, many of the homeless went back and set up their tents again.

Bennett Allen, a lawyer for the homeless people, said he was shocked that Ruehlman signed the order without holding a hearing involving all parties, although he acknowledged it was within Ruehlman's power to do so. 

"We were under the impression from the judge's staff that there would be a hearing before an order was signed,'' Allen said. 

The prosecutor had affidavits in support of his action from the Cincinnati Health Department and the Cincinnati Police Department.

Deters said anyone violating the order will be subject to arrest and anyone trying to assist homeless people in setting up on Third Street once it is cleared will be charged with obstruction of justice.

"If anyone tries to do that, they will be arrested,'' Deters said.

Ruehlman said in his temporary restraining order that all of the items remaining on the premises after the homeless people leave will be inventoried and stored as long as the order remains in effect. 

Deters' action came after the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition filed a federal lawsuit Friday asking for a temporary restraining order. Judge Timothy Black denied that order. After Black's decision, city crews went in to clear out and clean up the area. Some of the homeless just moved around the corner and set up on Walnut Street between Second and Third Street and waited until the area was cleaned before moving their tents back to Third Street.

The federal lawsuit, which is still in court, alleges the city is violating residents' constitutional rights, saying sidewalks are public forums, and the people living on Third Street are "engaged in symbolic political speech calling attention to the city's affordable housing crisis."

Deters said it is his understanding that there is enough room in area homeless shelters for the people camped on Third Street.

Allen told WVXU he would like to get together with city officials to see if there is a resolution to this that will find housing for all of the people.