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Homeless man from Over-the-Rhine camp finds housing but friends may not

Not enough affordable housing to fill need
Posted at 7:40 PM, Aug 17, 2018

CINCINNATI - One man from the homeless camp in Over-the-Rhine is celebrating after getting into affordable housing. But advocates say it's not as easy for others.

They say Desmond Brown's new home is a small victory in the midst of a much bigger problem.

You may know Desmond as the “mayor” of the homeless camp on Third Street. This is the first time he has had keys of his own.

"I cried a little bit. I'm soft," he said.

WCPO was there when he met his neighbors for the first time.

Neighbor: “You're in apartment 4?”

Desmond: “Yeah.”

Neighbor: “Welcome to the building.”

Desmond: “Thank you, Brother. You don't gotta worry. No problems outta me."

He gave us a tour and showed off his donated furniture.

"All my stuff is donated - everything you see here," he said.

His friends, who call themselves Sunshine and Darkness, were there to help him move in. Like many others living in tents on 13th and Republic, they're on the waiting list for an apartment of their own.

"I'm excited because Desmond got a really nice, cool place, and I'm excited to see what ours is going to be like," Sunshine said.

But Mary Rivers, executive director of Over-the-Rhine Community Housing, said Sunshine's hope may not come true.

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"I'm sorry to say that," Rivers said.

Public funding allows homeless services in Hamilton County to help about 1 in 10 people experiencing homelessness with housing assistance.

"The need is huge, but the resources are just not there," said Rivers.

A 2017 report by Xavier University shows there is a shortage of 40,000 affordable housing units in Cincinnati. With some shelters full and a court order forcing the camp at 13th and Republic to disband by Monday, that means people living there have few options.

"There really is nowhere for these people to go,” Rivers said. “If you don't have money, if you're left with no money, there's nowhere to go."  

That's why it feels bittersweet for Desmond Brown, knowing he has a key in his pocket when his friends don't.

“I wish everybody that's homeless could have keys," he said.