City cleans up homeless camp near downtown Louisville
The city of Louisville says it was a health hazard, but others called it home.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- City crews cleared out a makeshift camp near downtown Louisville early Friday.
Crews from Louisville Public Works along with LMPD showed up at the overpass near the 200 block of E. Jefferson and E. Market around 8 a.m. to begin the cleanup.
City officials say the move comes after complaints from neighbors and nearby residents.
"We're doing a cleanup of this area to get up the trash, any type of waste and any type of stuff that could be dangerous to the citizens," said Lt. Todd Felty with the LMPD's First Division.
It's not the first time in recent months that the city has cleaned up a homeless camp.
In October, a homeless camp in Portland on 12th Street near the Ohio River was bulldozed with only 15 minutes' notice, leaving nearly two dozen people without their belongings or a place to stay.
That prompted one city leader to call for an ordinance giving 21 days notice to people in homeless camps before they are cleared out.
Felty says the city has been working with people in the camp on Jefferson Street for at least three weeks.
"If you look around, everything in here, we've been dealing with this group of people for the past three weeks," Felty said. We've been doing one-on-one contact with them for a week. All of their personal belongings have been removed, or are being removed."
Felty says camps are evaluated after complaints are received to see if a cleanup is necessary.
"If it needs to have a cleanup like that, we do a posting for a minimum of 21 days, and then make multiple contacts through that 3-week period on until today. And then we simply help them get what they need out."
Heavy equipment and a garbage truck were brought in to dispose of any items remaining in the camp.
We spoke with Daniel McStoots, one of the last people to leave the camp Friday morning.
McStoots says he has been staying there since August while waiting on housing. He says they did get a notice "out of nowhere" letting them know they had to have everything they wanted to keep cleared out or it would be thrown away. He acknowledges that he was given a chance to remove his stuff.
"I was asked where I'm going, do I need a place to take my stuff," McStoots said. "I don't have anywhere to take it right now. That's just where I'm at."
Right now McStoots says he doesn't have anywhere to go, and doesn't have any prospects. He says he doesn't like to stay in shelters because it's hard to keep track of belongings. He says he has a case worker he's working with to get a voucher for permanent housing - but that hasn't happened yet.
"Things have got to get better," he said. "They can't get any worse."
About two dozen people showed up to protest. A group called Rage Against the Razing had posted on its Facebook page asking people to bring signs, hot soup, coffee and other essential items like coats and gloves.
Erika Williams was there with a sign reading "Where is your compassion?" She says she's not part of any group, just a concerned citizen.
"It's really cold out here this morning, so my question is why are we razing homeless camps in the middle of winter two weeks before the holidays?" Williams asked.
She added: "I think there's a lot better ways for us to take care of people rather than just ousting them from the only shelters they have in the middle of winter."
Williams says the city needs to address its lack of affordable housing before trying to grow other areas.
"The need is much greater than the resources at hand," Williams said.
Melissa Kratzer with the Coalition for the Homeless says the existence of homeless camps exposes a bigger problem -- a lack of affordable housing and services.
"We need compassion in our policies," Kratzer said. "We need compassion in our budget, and in our funding priorities."
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