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Apartments for the homeless? That’s one idea to end tent living in Hamilton

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller plans to convene another meeting soon to address the issue of homeless people who are living near the CSX railroad tracks and Ohio 4 in the Lindenwald area.

One idea he supports: Perhaps churches, businesses — or friends of such organizations — can donate apartments, utilities and other needs to help house the people while they work to reorganize their lives.

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“I’m working right now with (former Vice Mayor) Kathy Becker about setting up another date to get together,” said Moeller, who launched a task force on the issue in March.

“There seems to be great interest in the faith-based community to help out in some way,” Moeller said. “I truly believe they are a resource of people and ideas.”

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Moeller during a meeting in May said he hoped area businesses would help with the issue.

“That would be good,” he said Thursday, “because it’s going to take the entire village to help this situation out, whether it’s people, whether it’s dollars, whether it’s people providing housing of sorts.”

Doug Miller, known as “Pops” around camp, prepares for his day outside the homeless camp behind Hamilton Plaza shopping center near Ohio 4. Nelson has lived in the camp for nearly one year. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

Last week some property owners, including from the railroad, expressed concerns and frustration about people living in tents. Hamilton police went to the scene, and in recent months has been working to help resolve issues between the tent-livers and property owners who would like to see them leave.

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Cincinnati one week ago closed a downtown homeless camp after a Hamilton County judge ordered people to leave, saying the homeless living within a five-block area on Third Street downtown Cincinnati are a public nuisance because of felony drug crimes happening there.

Moeller hopes the community can assemble resources to find suitable housing for those who remain in tents.

“There’s an idea floating around out there that if each one of the faith-based groups and maybe some businesses can delegate some things, you might find a landlord who’s got some properties. You might have a church or a faith-based group help pay the rent, maybe a faith-based group help pay utilities,” Moeller said. “I think that would work. I brought it up at the last meeting we had, and it seemed to be pretty well received.”

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Moeller also sent out an email and heard from some pastors. He met with Pastor Felix Russo of New Life Mission on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

“I learned a lot,” Moeller said. “You kind of have to see things to really get the full need, and the number he is feeding is a large number. But also, he’s got ideas about helping people with apartment applications, job resumes.”

Russo said the mission on Henry Street feeds 100-150 people daily Monday-through-Thursday, and help 20-50 families a day at its food pantry in its anti-poverty efforts.

“Temporary housing’s obviously needed,” Russo said. “Where we’re at in that equation is we’re looking at the long-term of working with people so they’re no longer in poverty or on the street.”

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“The short-term housing and shelters, it’s never enough,” Russo said. “But then you also have the flip-side of people who won’t go to shelters because they don’t like following the rules. There’s not a lot you can do with somebody when that’s their attitude.”

Russo said one thing he has learned from experience is it’s important to have people help themselves get off the streets.

“If we just give people stuff, and give stuff, and give stuff, we’re basically causing entitlement,” he said. “People have big hearts and want to help people in those situations, but sometimes the effort is not the best effort.”

Tents are set up in a homeless camp behind Hamilton Plaza shopping center Thursday, March 22. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

“The first thing people want to do is, ‘Oh, we need to bring them food, we need to bring them clothes, we need to bring them new tents, X, Y and Z,” Russo said. “If you’ve got 20 groups doing the same thing, it kind of takes away the initiative for a person to pursue getting themselves off the street…. If staying the same does not hurt worse than changing, you’re never going to change.”

“It is a complex issue, as you can tell from what’s going on in Hamilton and Cincinnati,” Moeller said. “It sounds like an us-versus-them situation going on down there right now. Because I guess they’re on private property. We don’t want that. We want people to get the help that they need. And everybody’s got to be part of that. I believe faith-based groups have a strong part of it. I believe the business community can help out in some special ways.”

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