Eviction prompts call for reforms

BALTIMORE - After four years of living under Interstate 83 in the heart of Baltimore, time ran out on 15 homeless people and even one man's last ditch effort to block the path of the heavy machinery couldn't stop the eviction.

But homeless advocates, like Lisa Klingenmaier of an organization called Housing Our Neighbors, say it will take far more than threats to deal with the problem.

"We know the city has resources to spend money on Hiltons that are failing so we're questioning why the city couldn't spend resources to help out these vulnerable Baltimoreans," said Klingenmaier, "and this in just one encampment of many and so we're here to try to figure out a way to let individuals know that this is a problem that needs sustainable resources dedicated to it."
    
Private interests stepped in to provide temporary housing for the people who chose to risk their safety living under the highway versus returning to one of the city shelters.

"I had been to the shelter before," said Tracy Jones, "I had experienced theft and sexual harassment from the residents as well as the staff so that was just not an option and they don't allow us to be together."

While clearing out the people proved to be easier than clearing away their homes, forcing the crews to call in the police, the city's ultimatum has sparked an outcry for change.

"We can't lose this opportunity to say, 'We need a 10-year plan to end homelessness that better involves the entire community so that people don't feel like being outside looking in at city government," said Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

It's been estimated that the city has at least 4,000 homeless people, but only half that many beds in its shelters.

The city received federal vouchers to put vulnerable people in permanent housing last July, but critics say it's a system that's clogged with red tape.
 

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