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As another homeless camp grows downtown, councilmembers, advocates try to find long-term solution

Tents pop up at other end of Fort Washington Way
Posted at 1:22 AM, Jul 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-28 02:13:51-04

CINCINNATI – Closing the homeless camp under the Third and Plum overpass didn’t solve the homelessness issue downtown. It just moved it from one end of Fort Washington Way to the other.

If you've driven east past Great American Ball Park this week, you’ve probably noticed more tents popping up right before you enter the Lytle Tunnel.

Leaders with the Homeless Coalition say that’s because those folks have nowhere else to go.

With the camp there growing and others experiencing homelessness living along Third Street or scattered throughout downtown, city leaders and homeless advocates are under pressure to find a long-term solution that suits those who can't or won't go into shelter or find permanent housing, as well as permanent downtown residents and business owners.

One option: a structured outdoor shelter.

"More and more people have gotten help and we are, I think, much closer to getting a solution that will not only be great for the residents and those experiencing homelessness," City Councilman Greg Landsman told WCPO on Friday.

The city is hoping to work with homeless advocates like Maslow's Army and the Homeless Coalition to create a task force to help find more long-term options that also suit downtown residents.

"The city has a huge leadership role to play in first getting everyone together,” Landsman said. “We haven't done that yet and that's the next big step."

Sam Landis, co-founder of Maslow's Army, said the solution isn't one-size-fits-all but instead a larger picture of providing support and resources to those experiencing homelessness.

"We're trying to effectively reduce the amount of people living on the street by helping them with the proper tools to help them set goals and achieve goals and provide the proper resources that they need," Landis said.

It's a battle that Landis, who says he was homeless for 20 years, knows all too well.

"We slept on cardboard. It was much rougher back in the day,” said Landis. “Homelessness right now is on the rise."

The good news is many people who had been living under the Third and Plum overpass have gotten into a shelter or found permanent housing.

"There's still folks who either can't or won't go into a shelter,” Landsman said. “It's a smaller number and we've been talking to them and other residents to figure out what are the options."

To the end, a structured outdoor shelter could be a place  "where we can keep people safe and healthy," Landsman said.

It's "something we are looking into and we just gotta make sure we do it in a way that works for everybody," Landsman said.

Landsman and councilwoman Tamaya Dennard have worked on a motion in hopes of moving forward with a homeless solution. They hope to present it to the full council next week.