Petition to save 'Northside Free Bench' circulating online

NORTHSIDE, OH (FOX19) - The "Northside Free Bench", designed to help those in need, could eventually be removed following complaints, but supporters of the bench are fighting back.

For the past five years, the bench has worked as a "take what you need, leave what you can" space.

You can find a variety of items there, including toys, clothes and furniture.

"I've seen tons of stories. I mean people put their soccer cleats out there, and you'll see someone post 'oh you know, my kid just outgrew his soccer cleats,' so just little things like that makes the neighborhood feel closer," Dana Kuhnline, who lives in Northside, said.

Anyone can donate whatever they like, and anyone who is struggling can grab anything they might need.

"It's not just we're throwing things on a bench," Beth Holzer Wilson, who lives in Northside, said. "It's that we have a spot that we can put things and also use community involvement to match things they're looking for."

To some neighbors though, it's not a sight for sore eyes, but instead an eyesore.

"It's not always the most beautiful thing to look at, but it's a beautiful thing to think about, and it adds beauty to our community I think," Kuhnline said.

Cincinnati Police said they have been getting some complaints from neighbors who believe the bench is not only unattractive, but leads to people lingering in the streets and even undressing at times.

"To me, that just kind of highlights the desperate need for the bench, if people are changing clothes at the bench," Kuhnline said.

Police warned volunteers who keep it going that the bench could be removed down the line should officials discover code violations or health issues.

With the future of the bench uncertain, a petition is now circulating online. It asks for the bench to remain for good. 

"It's amazing that people even started this. It's great, so I'd like to see it continue," Wilson said. "Sometimes the bench does not look fresh and shiny, but I still think it plays a very important role."

Volunteers said they take extra items to St. Vincent De Paul's thrift store on a regular basis so nothing is wasted.

It's not clear what might happen next, but organizers said they're willing to work with officials and will make changes and adjustments  to the bench if needed.

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