Hamilton officials broke up a homeless camp last year. Where did they go?

After Hamilton police broke up a homeless camp last year near CSX railroad tracks and attention was raised earlier this year after people apparently living in a Lindenwald area on CSX property, officials say they’re continuing to monitor the issue that affects the entire county.

They’ve gone many places, said Kathy Becker, director of law enforcement and criminal-justice services for Access Counseling, a privately owned agency that serves clients throughout Butler County with issues including mental health and addiction.

“They’re all over the place — they’re still in Lindenwald and Fairfield — I see them,” said Becker, who served on Hamilton City Council through the 1990s and has worked with the homeless for decades.

“I rode with Fairfield police, third shift, a couple months ago, and we ran into some people on the street, living in different wooded areas, that I recognized and talked to.”

After the Hamilton Plaza camp dissolved, many seem to have migrated a few blocks away to the Lindenwald area on CSX property south of the new South Hamilton Crossing. When the city cut down trees and brush in that area after residents complained people were stealing many things, including bicycles and even hanging plants to pay for drug fixes, the homeless moved again.

After the late July fire in the Lindenwald warehouse at 999 Laurel Ave., some said they had seen homeless people entering that building. Hamilton is probing the cause of that suspicious fire and ask that people with information call police investigators at 513-868-5811, extension 2002.

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Increases in homelessness are not only a Hamilton problem, Becker said.

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“It’s a countywide issue. They’re breaking into houses in places nobody would believe. I can tell you it’s not just a Hamilton issue,” she said.

While she declined to name specific places, she said it’s happening “anyplace that has houses,” including areas where people migrate south for the winter, or farms with barns.

Connie Osuna of Fairfield Twp., who owns rental property on North 9th St. in Hamilton’s North End neighborhood, said she has had several problems in the area, “and it doesn’t seem to be being addressed.”

While issues of thefts by homeless people in Lindenwald have been in the news, “I don’t hear much addressed in the North End,” she said.

She said her garage has been broken into by people who were living in there, and a homeless man broke into the basement of an occupied three-apartment rental property to live there. People have abandoned their vehicles on her property, she said.

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“Drug deals going down the other day, and I found a hypodermic needle laying on the sidewalk” of North 9th St. “There’s problems down there.”

Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said every Hamilton neighborhood, like many other areas, has experienced issues with homeless people at some point.

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Many factors have combined to create an increase in the problem, Becker said.

“From the lack of livable-wage jobs, to mental health, to addiction to people being empowered to leave abusive relationships,” she said. “And I think, too, we as a group have gotten better at identifying places people weren’t found before.

“Like behind the plaza, that’s been there 20-some years. I knew. I was going back there all the time, but the general public had no idea. I think it’s just become visible.”

Does she see a solution? Some have advocated greater use of a van that provides clean needles, condoms, health care services and other things homeless people need, such as Hamilton County’s health department provides in Middletown and Fairfield.

“I’d like to see some kind of van or something, and we can set days, and set cities that we all go to, the various providers, and people know we’re going to be there that day, and they can come to that van, it’s non-threatening, and you get the resources you need,” she said. “And you start engaging in trust.”

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