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Accountabilityby Fern Shen1:40 pmJun 25, 20180

Where homeless were evicted for “health and safety” concerns, tall weeds now grow

People still sleep just outside the fenced-off area on Guilford Avenue

Above: There’s an overgrown mess along Guilford Avenue, near Bath Street, in the place where people were living in tents until they were forced out in January. (Fern Shen)

In January, citing “health and safety concerns,” the administration of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh evicted dozens of people who had been living in tents and makeshift shelters along Guilford Avenue.

Today, five months later, the area is weed choked and dotted with litter. The fence erected by city workers to keep people out is now sagging in places, with metal poles projecting across the sidewalk.

Guilford Avenue (Fern Shen)

Farmers Market shoppers walk along Guilford Avenue yesterday past the site of the former encampment. (Fern Shen)

Guilford Avenue (Fern Shen)

For weeks the metal poles from this knocked-down fence have been projecting over the sidewalk along Guilford Avenue. (Fern Shen)

No people appeared to be living in this weedy patch on a recent Sunday, as shoppers returning to their cars from the weekly Farmers Market walked by.

But a man was sleeping on Bath Street, just across from where the encampment once stood, in a place that homeless persons have long favored. His cot positioned in front of the Baltimore Sun building’s loading dock, the man snoozed away as cars drove by.

Others have been sleeping nearby in doorways along the west side of Guilford Avenue and in front of the Sun building on Calvert Street.

A man sleeps on a cot next to the Baltimore Sun's loading dock on bath Street. (Fern Shen)

A man sleeps on a cot next to the Baltimore Sun’s loading dock on Bath Street. (Fern Shen)

The Brew asked Terry Hickey, director of the Mayor’s Office of Human Services, what the city plans for this spot and why tall grass and weeds have been allowed to grow there. We will post his reply when we receive it.

Clearings Sparked Protest

There had been protests on January 26, when city trash trucks came to haul away the tents and people’s other possessions. Traffic on Guilford Avenue was blocked for a time by the demonstration.

Lawyers from the Homeless Persons Representation Project said the city’s action was abrupt, inhumane and contradicted the recommendations of the Mayor’s own task force on homelessness. Other advocates said encampment clearing “hurts more than helps” because it “drives homeless drug users into the shadows.”

The city's Chris Rafferty and other staffers sruvey the scene on Guilford. (Fern Shen)

How the Guilford Avenue encampment looked in January before the city evicted people living there. The city’s Chris Rafferty (with phone) is at right. (Fern Shen)

The people who have been living in tents along Guilford Avenue react to the news that the city plans to clear the encampment. (Fern Shen)

Reacting to the news the city planned to clear their encampment, the people living in tents along Guilford Avenue embrace. (Fern Shen)

City officials said they had posted signs and warned people about the impending camp razing. The camp had to razed because due to unclean conditions, bitter cold and “rapidly escalating health and safety concerns,” Hickey said at the time.

Hickey said the city offered to move people to the Volunteers of America Chesapeake shelter on Monument Street where they would receive housing and services.

In February, a second encampment clearing nearby, on the Fallsway, also did not go smoothly. One woman protested when workers put her possessions in a truck with out asking her. Other women, members of a church group trying to feed people in that area, were upset when they were told by city workers to leave.

Last month, city officials said the VOA program had 30 participants and that some of them were from the Guilford encampment.

Two women assemble a tent at the Guilford Avenue encampment. (Fern Shen)

Two women assembling a tent last year at the Guilford Avenue encampment. (Fern Shen)

Namid Rawls outside the tent where he has been living for the past month along with about 30 other people, along Guilford Avenue. (Fern Shen)

Namid Rawls outside the tent on Guilford Avenue where he was living last winter. (Fern Shen)

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