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.
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.
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.”
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.