Hamilton residents upset about homeless in their neighborhood credit city for actions

A day after city employees cut down brush between residents’ neighborhood and nearby CSX railroad tracks, people living in Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood said they were pleased by actions officials have taken in the past week.

Residents also were happy Monday see city employees board up an area house that lacked both water and electricity, where they say many homeless people and others would go in and out regularly.

The residents have been frustrated by what they say have been rampant thefts in their area and discarded drug needles left on properties and in alleys where children can find them. The homeless people have been living on and near the railroad property in areas south of the new South Hamilton Crossing, they say.

“Yesterday was a huge day out here,” resident Ashley Wilson said Tuesday. She said the clearing of shrubs, bushes and other undergrowth homeless people were using to sleep without being easy to see. “It’s night-and-day different.”

“And then our problem house … got boarded up, and they got kicked out last night,” she said about people who were living in the house.

“They never even left,” Wilson said. “They just stayed in the yard with all their belongings.”

Four cruisers at one point Tuesday morning were outside that structure.

“We are just beyond pleased” by the city’s actions, Wilson said. There are two other areas she hopes the city will work on, including one area where there have been “three overdoses in 14 days — that area needs to be torn down as well.”

There also are other areas along a treeline that CSX should do the same clearing on its property, she said: “There’s still ample space where they’re still living out there.”

Frank Downie, the leader of PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out To Others; Celebrate Our Lindenwald), said 55 people attended the group’s Monday-evening meeting. Some audience members planned to show Police Chief Craig Bucheit around the area, and he was willing despite heavy rains, but residents decided to postpone that.

After Monday’s meeting, Downie said, “I think the city has a better appreciation of the residents and their concerns, and I think most of the residents, if not all of them, left with a better appreciation of what the city has to go through sometimes to make this happen — the hoops you have to jump through, especially when you’re dealing with the railroad’s private property.”

“There’s a big difference,” resident Christina Hill said Tuesday morning. “It’s going to be so much better, because you can’t hide. And the kids will be able to play out here.”

“I’m thrilled,” said Anita Shively, who last week broke into tears as she explained to Hamilton City Council the problems the neighborhood has faced in recent months.

Hill and Shively highly praised Police Officer Heather Maus, who has been working with the residents to address problems. Residents said she has been talking with them mornings before she goes on duty and also on days she’s off.

“Heather Maus, she’s been doing a hell of a job to make sure it is safe here,” Hill said.

“I can’t sing her praises enough,” Wilson agreed. “I’ve been speaking to her all morning, before she was even on duty. Every single day, on Saturday when she was off work, I was speaking to her. She checks in every single day to see how it’s going over here.”

Meanwhile, there has been some friction between PROTOCOL, which is the neighborhood organization, and another, more loosely affiliated group called Take Back the Wald, which last year organized a walk to show drug dealers the neighborhood was watching them. Take Back the Wald followers have been frustrated with slow progress against drugs, prostitution and other crime issues.

“PROTOCOL, I think, they have amazing intentions, and they do bring a lot of really important people there, and people (from city government) that can answer questions,” Wilson said.

“I feel like it’s almost like Take Back the Wald versus PROTOCOL, and instead of it being that way, we should be working together,” Wilson said. “We all have the same end-goal. We all love where we live, and we all just want a better community.”

Downie agreed, saying both groups should strive to work closer together for the neighborhood’s benefit.

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