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Homeless advocates sound alarm over shootings

Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 11:24 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 4:08 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Advocates say they are increasingly fearful for the unhoused in Cincinnati’s urban neighborhoods after the recent shooting deaths of two men believed to be homeless.

In early May, 61-year-old Douglas Robinson died after being caught in the crossfire of a gunfight on Walnut Street. Robinson reportedly experienced chronic homelessness.

Last week, two women and a man are accused of driving around Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Cincinnati peppering the homeless with BB gun fire. (All three suspects are in custody.)

Then on Monday, Cincinnati police identified a homicide victim discovered in Goose Alley as 53-year-old John Barron.

Brian Garry with the Human Services Coalition says Barron was homeless.

Witnesses say construction workers first found Barron’s body and that the man appeared to have been sleeping when he was shot. A neighbor says she heard a loud boom just before 4:30 a.m.

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The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition issued the following statement on news of Barron’s death:

“A person was murdered outdoors in the early morning hours of Monday, June 14 in Over-the-Rhine. We don’t have many details, but based on the little we know, we have increased concern for the current safety of people experiencing homelessness, especially outdoors. We know there is not shelter space for everyone, but we strongly encourage everyone to take any space in a shelter that is available to them. If a person is not able to enter shelter, we strongly encourage them to be extra aware of their surroundings. If they experience something suspicious, please let us know.

“This is not meant to cause fear, but instead confidence by having this information. Homelessness will end when we succeed in our struggle to have enough affordable housing that meets everyone’s needs. Then we won’t have to think about problems like this.”

“It’s devastating,” Garry said of Barron’s death. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Garry, who advocates both for unhoused people and against gun violence with Neighborhoods United, says those experiencing homelessness have the hardest lives of anyone.

“They’re some of our most vulnerable people in our city, and to hear that he was exposed out living on the streets and lost his life due to gun violence, it hurts,” Garry said.

Over-crowding at the city’s homeless shelters presents frequent problems, but Garry says the city can remedy that by investing more into affordable housing and by building more shelters.

Efforts are underway on affordable housing, even without the passage of Issue 3.

In April city leaders announced the largest-ever commitment to affordable housing, a potential $65.5 million investment. Meanwhile, 3CDC is moving forward aggressively with its Wilkommen project, which contains significant amounts of affordable housing throughout OTR.

Still, Garry says more programs need to be put in place to provide adequate shelter.

“Housing should be a human right,” he said. “No one should be sleeping on our streets. We should see to it that everyone who doesn’t have a home has a place to lay their head at night.”

No arrests have been made in Barron’s death.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call CPD’s Homicide Unit: 513-352-3542.

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