The City of Cincinnati has ordered that the homeless people living in a tent city at Third and Plum streets leave the camp. The notice states that the camp must be vacated by the end of the week.
The city has provided information for the people to get mental health help and to be placed in shelters (though there is a question on whether there is enough space to house all the people). The city has said the encampment is a health hazard, and it wants to help place people in permanent homes, while homeless advocates say the evacuation is exacerbating the problems people experiencing homelessness face.
Unfortunately, in this situation, there are no good solutions. In an ideal world, the people living in this camp would be placed in shelters or, better yet, permanent housing, and provided medical care. But this is not an ideal world. The reality is that they can't stay in the camp, as it can pose a health problem not just for those in the camp, but for other citizens in the city.
I've talked with many homeless people over the past several years. Many have expressed that they find shelters dangerous, and are afraid they may be robbed or assaulted. Some homeless couples don't want to be split up by being forced to go to separate shelters. And the mental health and addiction issues some homeless people struggle with make being in a shelter even more complicated.
Perhaps if given more time than just a week, city health officials can perhaps spend more time with the people in the camp. They can find out what their needs truly are. They can better prepare safe shelters or even permanent homes. And above all, they can find a way to provide these people, often on the fringes of our community, a sense of dignity.
Kevin Necessary is the editorial cartoonist for WCPO. His opinions do not reflect those of WCPO.