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This blog is dedicated to distribute current information about the Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland or poverty or the state of homelessness. Entries are written by board or staff of the Coalition. The opinions contained in this blog reflect the views of the author of the post. This blog features information on shelters, affordable housing, profiles, statistics, trends, and upcoming events relating to homelessness. We welcome comments, and will remove offensive or inappropriate messages. All postings are signed by the author.

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Arsonists Arrested for Starting Fires in Flats

Two men and a woman who were homeless were arrested early this morning in connection with the fires of homeless encampments.  This is unbelievable and terribly sad that three people who are homeless and living out of a tent would set fires to their own tens and those of others.  The police believe that the fires set this last week were intentional in order to get sympathy and three nights that a local charity paid for a motel stay.  Let it never be said that most homeless people want to sleep outside in a tent.  This group was willing to set their own tents on fire and endanger others for three nights in a motel.  They risked going to jail to get a short time off the streets. 

We know that one of the guys was branded for life as a sexually based offender, and so he would have a nearly impossible time finding housing.  Please don't leap to the conclusion that all homeless people are criminals.  Some are fragile mentally, some are criminals and some are just looking for work.  Any collection of over 4,000 people (the number of people homeless in Cleveland on any given night) will have criminals, con artists, and mentally ill people as members of the group.  We can't paint the whole group based on the actions of a few.

Everyone was on edge after two fires this week, and we hope that these arrests put an end to these fires.  We were not sure if these were outsiders coming down to the sites out of hate or was this a personal grudge.  We got out the word to try to keep people safe.  If these three did what the police are alleging, we hope that they are prosecuted.  We know that many valuables and important documents were destroyed in a previous fire.  We know a cat was killed at one of the other encampments.  We know these fires terrorized the individuals living rough in Cleveland.  We know that people were relocating to safer and less visible places.  This make it more difficult to provide services or housing to people who are hiding from the world.  We will work with those outside to rebuild trust and peace of mind.

Brian Davis

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Reader Comments (2)

Hello Mr. Davis, perso
How can you advocate for persons without homes and then label them as arsonists, or "sexually based offender" without full knowledge .?
You acknowledge that "The police beleive and allege" , but you provide a final judgement in your blog. My research and work with advocates for persons without homes has provided a far more nuanced understanding of a range of survival strategies utilized by folks in egregious circumstances. Your blog is replete with assumptions and more harmful, labels persons as felons. Persons without homes are most often labelled and reviled for thier status by even enlightened human beings. When a person who masqerades as an advocate uses stereotypes and labels without full facts, those who may thrive from a full understanding , have possibilities narrowed.

Yours with outrage,
Jill Gerson, Doctor of Social Welfare , City University of New York , Graduate Center

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Jill Gerson

Thank you for the passionate defense of homeless people. The one gentleman arrested is listed by the State of Ohio as a sexually based offender. This label of a sexually based offender is a statement of fact in the state of Ohio. That is a label put on the individual by the state of Ohio upon release and carries community notification rules on housing and job locations. While we do not agree with this label or the value of the label to the community, it is a factual statement describing one of the individuals. We are not setting final judgement on the three individuals. We say that if they are found guilty ... We are advocates for those others living down in the Flats who were terrorized by these fires. Remember that there were seven campsites attacked including three innocent individuals who had all of their items destroyed. We are advocates for those individuals who were scared to go near the Flats and the meal programs in the neighborhood because they were worried there was someone attempting to do harm to homeless people. We are advocates for the volunteers who were going down to the area at all hours of the night to keep people safe and risking their own safety. We have to make a judgement to continue to the red alert that there may be outsiders coming down to the Flats to harm homeless people or accept the judgement of the arson unit that we can reduce the anxiety of the other 40 people in the area who were living in fear every night.
Brian Davis

May 27, 2014 | Registered CommenterNEOCH Web Admin

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