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Hamilton homeless campers say police told them to be out Sunday or be arrested

Hamilton homeless campers say police told them to be out Sunday or be arrested
Posted at 7:19 PM, Oct 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-07 19:35:15-04

HAMILTON, Ohio — The remaining people living in a homeless tent camp behind Hamilton Plaza said they were told Sunday to be out by the end of the night or plan to be taken away in handcuffs early Monday morning, the Journal-News reported.

Many of the people living at the edge of woods behind the CSX railroad tracks behind the plaza already had left in recent days. Those who remained said they didn’t know where they would go. They lamented they may lose some of their possessions if equipment is used to clear the area.

Resident John Thomas, 44, of Hamilton, said he and several others in a group he was preparing to leave with would depart “today, best we can, with what we got, and what we can get out with.”

“It’s kind of hard when you ain’t got no cars, vehicles, trucks,” he said, as he adjusted an already filled small cart he planned to pull behind a bicycle. “We’ll do the best we can.

 “You got an empty garage or basement?” he asked with a smile. “You want some roommates?”

Thomas said Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit visited them Sunday morning to tell them to leave the area. They earlier had been told to be out by Sept. 30, but the city did not press that deadline. A detective told them the area would be bulldozed, the men said.

“He stopped by just to see how things were, make sure everybody was out, and what else it took to get them out,” said Thomas, who has lived in the camp three years and was with a group of five.

Attempts to contact Bucheit and police spokesman were unsuccessful. Mayor Pat Moeller, who earlier this year created a task force to examine the issue, was unavailable to comment.

“We have no choice” but to leave, said a 58-year-old woman sitting with another small group at the edge of the parking lot on the opposite side of the train tracks from the camp. “We don’t know (where).”

She said she and others attended a recent resources fair offered by the police and social-service agencies.

“Everything we filled out,” she said. “Well, there’s a waiting list a mile long, right?”

Homeless shelters weren’t an option Thomas wanted to use, he said.

“They’ve got shelters and stuff like that, but we’ve been to those; they ain’t all that,” Thomas said. “We’d rather be on our own than a situation like that because their rules. They treat you like little kids down there.”

Thomas said living in the camp “was all right until things got out of hand with the younger generation coming in and doing their drugs, trying to do the heroin thing here. That caused a lot of problems.”

Todd Heart, 50, originally from Florida, who said he has lived in the camp since the spring, said, “We’re pretty much on our own. We’re losing everything.”

He recently broke his hand, but it’s healing, and said he hopes to start a job as a machine operator this week.

“People of Hamilton, the way we’re treated, we’re a filthy society,” Heart said. “We’re unclean. ‘Get rid of them people.’ That’s the way they look at us.

"They don’t know us. How can they judge us? We’re the ones that struggle. Live in our shoes, then judge us. They think it’s easy living up here, no water? We have to pack our water. We have to get our own food. It ain’t easy. We have to fight the elements.

“I’ll never look down on people, like the way they look down on us,” he said. 

Churches and other agencies have been helping, providing food and other assistance. During the mid-afternoon, one church blasted air horns and yelled, “Come on and get your food.” The air horns were necessary because the aid people were banned from parking near the encampment.