Judge denies request to keep Downtown homeless camp open

DOWNTOWN CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A federal judge denied a request Friday from residents of a Downtown homeless camp to stop the city from closing it at 2 p.m.

It was almost a moot point because most of the homeless returned minutes after the city closed and cleaned the camp.

People living in two homeless camps Downtown joined forced with the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and lawyers Friday morning and sued the city of Cincinnati, hours before the order to vacate was to go into effect.

City workers power washed the sidewalk and cleaned up trash.

Homeless residents moved their belongings out of the way - and then began re-pitching tents some 15 minutes later.

Next week, the city plans to issue a 72-hours vacate notice at another camp Downtown: on Broadway Street at Pete Rose Way near U.S. Bank Arena. That is expected to occur Tuesday morning, according to Cincinnati police.

No reprieve this time for Cincinnati homeless camp

Just last week, the city and police closed a homeless camp nearby, on Third Street at Plum Street under Fort Washington Way.

Mayor John Cranley said earlier this week the homeless camps have to go.

They are a public health hazard for the people who live there and the overall city, he said.

There are several homeless shelters in the city, but homeless advocates note availability has been an issue.

Earlier this week, the homeless camp residents gave the city a list of demands that included public restrooms with showers for them.

The motion filed Friday is behalf of Joseph Phillips and "all others similarly situated" on Third Street under Fort Washington Way.

The suit claims the homeless are in an area along Third Street that is in a space designated as a public forum, and by living on the tent city residents are "engaged in symbolic political speech calling attention to the city's affordable housing crisis."

They cannot be removed for expressing their beliefs; that would violate their First Amendment rights, the suit states.

Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman said the city would proceed with the vacate order unless a judge ordered against it.

FOX19 NOW will follow this story throughout the day and have the latest developments on air tonight at 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Copyright 2018 WXIX. All rights reserved.