by Hannah McCartney
Over-the-Rhine, Central Business District march comes amisdt Justice Center debate
If you had to guess how many people are in Cincinnati are considered homeless, what would be your guess? Would it be anywhere near 7,000? That's the number of Cincinnatians cited in a 2012 report
from Strategies to End Homelessness that are either staying in shelters or in places
not meant for human habitation.
The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition will coalesce to recognize the plight of those 7,000 when it
holds its annual Homeless Awareness March on Saturday, Oct. 26 starting
at 3 p.m. at Buddy’s Place, a permanent housing facility
for the homeless located at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine. Josh Spring, executive director at GRHC, says the march will explore areas in Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District particularly plagued by homelessness. There will be about 10 stops, each of which will be marked by a speech from representatives of several advocacy groups, including the Interfaith Workers' Center, OTR Community Housing, Streetvibes, People's Coalition for Equality and Justice and the Drop Inn Center.
The march comes at a particularly auspicious time for
GRHC, which recently helped four homeless plaintiffs file a lawsuit
against the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office for depriving homeless
people of their constitutional rights by threatening to arrest people
who sleep or inhabit the common areas around the Hamilton County
Courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center downtown.
Those areas have recently become the center of a public
health debate between groups like GRHC and county officials, who have been forced to clean up urine
and feces left behind the homeless and argue they
just don’t have the resources to keep up. The GHRC held a protest on Oct. 16 in front of the courthouse asking Sheriff Neil to rescind the policy, the same day the lawsuit was filed. In an effort to compromise, Spring and other supporters have asked the county to at least wait to stick to the policy until the winter shelter opens in December, but county officials are hesitant to ignore the cleanliness problem for that long.
Advocates such as Spring, however, argue the city should
take a “prevention first” approach instead by figuring out what will
keep Cincinnatians from becoming homeless in the first place.Spring says he hopes the march will draw both people who have come specifically to protest displacement and others who come to learn about the nature of homelessness in Cincinnati. "We really hope people walk away with some passion to go and do something about this," he says. Last year's march was centered around protesting Western & Southern's manipulative legal disputes with the Anna Louise Inn, which provides safe and affordable housing to low-income women. The battle came to an end in May when Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, signed an agreement with Western & Southern to move from Lytle Park to Mount Auburn.
November is National Homeless Awareness Month. Here are a
few volunteer opportunities in the Greater Cincinnati area to look into this winter.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Homeless advocates gathered in front of
the Hamilton County Courthouse on Oct. 16 to speak out against the
county sheriff’s attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the
courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center and threaten jail time.
1 Comment · Wednesday, October 23, 2013
A scathing audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO)
suggests former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments,
stacked leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his
staff fiercely loyal during his 25-year reign over the sheriff’s office.
by German Lopez
Simon Leis’ reign kept sheriff’s office “largely frozen in time,” audit finds
A scathing audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) suggests former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments, stacked leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his staff fiercely loyal during his 25-year reign over the sheriff’s office.According to the Oct. 15 audit, the result was an agency “largely frozen in time” that failed at adopting modern standards and practices for policing and corrections facilities.As one example, the audit found the agency still uses what it colloquially calls “The Book,” a single, massive paper-based trove of financial data and other information, instead of modern technologies, such as computer spreadsheets. Not only did the agency insist on sticking to the old ways of keeping records, but one unit head reportedly told auditors that she simply does not trust computers.The audit presents various consequences for Hamilton County: outdated policing policies, exposure to possible litigation and an overworked, under-trained staff.“A mid-level supervisor indicated that in his twenty-plus year career, he has never had updated use of force training beyond the initial academy. This is inconsistent with the best practices and exposes the HCSO, the County, and officeholders to unnecessary legal liability,” the audit found.Leis’ policies also had a negative effect on newcomers trying to build a career on the county force, according to the audit.“The command staff was comprised exclusively of personal and political associates of the former sheriff, some with no true law enforcement experience except at that level,” the audit noted. “Almost no career employees were promoted above the rank of lieutenant, despite advanced training including degrees and other training (e.g. Southern Police Institute) directly related to their careers.”One staff commander interviewed for the audit reportedly said the failure to identify, train and promote new leaders created “The Lost Generation” at HCSO.One explanation for the dire circumstances, according to the audit, is that the agency completely lacked inspection and planning functions that would have examined policies and practices for certain standards and established plans to fix discovered errors.Another possible cause: The audit found that five years of cuts created staffing gaps in several areas, particularly correctional facilities. Still, the audit found the sheriff’s staff is so loyal that its members would quickly embrace and adapt to changes given through the chain of command. “This is a key advantage, and we have no doubt that both sworn and non-sworn HCSO members will readily and rapidly implement chosen reforms and changes,” the audit claimed.The audit recommends various new investments and changes in standards for HSCO. It notes that some of the investments, such as a greater focus on modern technology, could help make the agency’s work more efficient and allow a reduction of non-sworn staff — and the costs associated with them — through attrition.But the investments would involve a substantial policy shift for Hamilton County, which carried out major budget cuts in the past six years just to get to a point this year where large reductions or tax increases aren’t necessary to balance the annual budget.Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil promised the audit during his 2012 campaign. It was conducted by former American Civil Liberties Union attorney Scott Greenwood and former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher.The HCSO audit:
by German Lopez
Shutdown ends, homeless sue county, Requiem makes demands in battle for Emery Theatre
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Congress last night voted
to end a partial government shutdown that lasted for more than two
weeks and avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt. In the end, House
Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner and local Reps. Steve Chabot
and Brad Wenstrup, got less than nothing for their threats of default
and shutdown: Obamacare wasn’t repealed or delayed, taxes weren’t cut
and federal spending remained flat. Instead, Republicans were left with the worst polling results
Gallup measured for either political party since it began asking the question in 1992. Meanwhile, President
Barack Obama and congressional Democrats got the clean budget and debt
ceiling bills they were asking for all along. But the funding measures only last until Jan. 15 and the debt ceiling increase remains until Feb. 7,
leaving some groups on both sides of the aisle to ask whether the
dramatic showdown will happen all over again in a few months.
Four local homeless sued Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil
over his attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the courthouse
and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time.
Homeless advocates argue the policy punishes homeless people for being
homeless; they say the county should focus on creating jobs and housing
opportunities, not arresting people who are just trying to find a safe
spot to sleep. But the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office says it’s
addressing a public health issue; Major Charmaine McGuffey, head of the
Hamilton County Justice Department, says that every morning county
officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless
the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to
completely disinfect the areas.
In the ongoing legal battle for the Emery Theatre, the Requiem Project amended its lawsuit
against the University of Cincinnati and lessees and asked the courts
to remove UC from ownership of the building. Requiem argues UC has
failed to live up to the goals of Mary Emery’s charitable trust by
allowing the building to fall into disrepair and non-use over the years.
Courts originally approved the development of apartments in the
building as long as the profits went toward renovating the theater, but
after 14 years apartment operators say there are multiple mortgages on
the property and no profits. The trial is scheduled for February.
Commentary: “Governor Finally Accepts Federal Funds.”
Now in print: Mayoral candidate John Cranley, who’s running for mayor against fellow Democrat and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, rejected support
from the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST),
and the conservative organization’s history of anti-LGBT causes helps
Qualls scored higher across the board
than Cranley in the scorecard released today by the African-American
Chamber of Commerce. Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at
Xavier University, previously told CityBeat that the black vote
will likely decide the mayoral election. Council candidates Charlie
Winburn, P.G. Sittenfeld, Vanessa White, Yvette Simpson, David Mann and
Pam Thomas also topped the scorecard.
Ohio House Republicans may sue
Gov. John Kasich for his decision to bypass the legislature and instead
get approval from a seven-member legislative panel for the federally
funded Medicaid expansion, which would use Obamacare dollars to extend
eligibility for the government-run health insurance program to more
low-income Ohioans for at least two years. The Health Policy Institute
of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for
the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
CityBeat covered Kasich’s decision in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the Ohio House and Senate are debating three different ways
to approach an overhaul of Medicaid and bring the program’s costs down.
State Rep. Barbara Sears’ bill pushes for a swathe of reforms and cost
controls, while State Rep. John Becker’s bill aims to significantly
weaken the program to the absolute minimums required by the federal
government. Becker’s proposal would likely leave hundreds of thousands
of low-income Ohioans without health insurance.
Speaking in Cincinnati yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the federal government is working to correct the many errors plaguing Obamacare’s online marketplaces. The glitches and traffic overload have made HealthCare.gov,
which acts as Obamacare’s shopping portal for Ohio and 35 other states,
practically unusable for most Americans since the website launched on
Ohio’s prison agency reassigned
the warden and second-in-command at the Correctional Reception Center
weeks after Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro was found dead in his cell.
A 20-year-old woman is expected to recover after her car crashed into a Winton Hills building while she overdosed on heroin, according to Cincinnati police.
Cincinnati is the only Ohio city to make Livability.com’s top 100 places to live.
Headline: “Bad sperm? Drop the bacon.”
A new study argues ancient climate change led early humans to adapt and evolve.
by German Lopez
Advocates say tactic focuses on the wrong problem
Homeless advocates gathered in front of the Hamilton
County Courthouse on Wednesday to speak out against the county sheriff’s attempts to evict homeless people
sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time.
The press conference came on the same day that four local homeless filed a lawsuit
in federal court claiming Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil’s new
policy is cruel and unusual because it punishes people for being
Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says the policy is necessary to address a public health issue. She explains that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas.
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati
Homeless Coalition, says county officials should stop using taxpayer
money to address public defecation and focus on the
state of the economy. He’s asking locals to tell county officials, “I want my government to invest in
jobs and housing, not in pushing people to the margins.”
If the policy remains, Spring says the county could at
least compromise and hold enforcement until the winter shelter opens,
which would provide another housing opportunity for many of the homeless
people who currently rely on county buildings for a safe spot to sleep.McGuffey says the current timeline for the winter shelter opening — two months — is too much time to wait for what she describes as a public health issue. She says it’s also unclear whether local organizations, which are still gathering funds for the shelter, will have enough money to open it.
At the press conference, Spring was joined by several
homeless people who shared their experiences. All the speakers echoed a
similar theme: They’re not homeless by choice, and they only sleep on
county property because it’s much safer than the alternatives, such as
alleys and abandoned buildings.McGuffey insists no one is trying to demonize homeless people. She says officers try to link homeless people with local human services when possible. Some of that outreach is already underway through trained officers and neighborhood liaisons, and starting next week the county will bring in a trained mental health professional to act as an advocate and outreach coordinator.But if help can’t be found, McGuffey says officers have to threaten arrest to invoke a “sense of immediacy” or homeless people might never leave the properties and the public health issue would go unaddressed.So far, the sheriff’s office sees the program as successful. Over the past four weeks, it’s brought down the amount of homeless people camping out at the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center each night from 40 to 12, according to McGuffey. She says the reductions exemplify people who were redirected to human services, but there’s no hard evidence showing those people actually got help or whether the reduction is temporary.Spring says there aren’t enough human services to get all of the city’s homeless help. That, he claims, is the real problem that needs local officials’ attention.Over the past decade, City Council fell far short of its funding goal for human services,
which aid homeless and low-income Cincinnatians. Several council
candidates, including Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman and Mike Moroski,
say increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget will be a
priority for them over the next few years. The increase would represent an
improvement, but it would still fall short of the city’s 1.5 percent goal.
Meanwhile, Strategies to End Homelessness aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 to roughly 3,500 over the next five years through an initiative backed by the city and county.
As part of Homelessness Awareness Month, Spring and other
advocates will march in support of homeless causes later this month. The
march will begin at 3 p.m. on Oct. 26 at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine. The lawsuit:
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:33 PM | Permalink
Deputies deployed Taser during confrontation
A Sycamore Township man died overnight after the Hamilton
County Sheriff’s Office used a Taser to subdue him during a brief
While responding to a 911 call, deputies found Gary Roell, 59,
half-clothed and smashing windows behind a resident’s home, according
to the police report. When deputies ordered Roell to the ground, he
charged at them and punched one of the officers in the face. The
deputies then shot Roell on the back with a Taser to physically restrain
and handcuff him.
After he was taken into custody, Roell began having
labored breathing, and emergency medical services were called, the
report reads. But before ambulances arrived, Roell stopped breathing.
Despite attempts by deputies to revive Roell with CPR, he was pronounced
dead upon reaching the hospital.
Roell reportedly suffers from bipolar
depression and schizophrenia, which can lead to a distorted view of
reality. He had apparently stopped taking his medication.
Two key facts remain unknown: whether the Taser led to
Roell’s death and how many times the Taser was actually used. Jim Knapp,
spokesperson for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, says those
issues will be investigated by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Criminal
Investigative Section and the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says the officers followed protocol, given Roell’s violent behavior and actions.
For some, the question is whether police protocol is
correct in the first place. Advocacy group Amnesty International has
been asking police departments around the country to scrutinize
standards for deploying a Taser.
A 2012 report from Amnesty International
found at least 500 people died in the United States between 2001 and
2012 after being shocked with Tasers during their arrests or while in
jail. On average, that’s nearly four deaths around the country each
But if officers don’t use Tasers, they must resort other
non-lethal tools, such as pepper spray or a baton, that require getting
closer to a target. That, police experts argue, could lead to more
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:22 AM | Permalink
Sheriff wants more staff, businesses get tax credits, Ohio Senate to look at gambling bill
Even as it faces budget cuts, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office says it wants more staff
to keep up with higher jail populations — especially in light of a new
measure that will keep more people detained until they appear in court.
The measure is in response to some people never showing up to court
after being released from jail. Staff are crediting the feasibility of the measure to Hamilton
County Sheriff Jim Neil encouraging them to think “outside the box.”
Still, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel
says the cost of the program might require Neil to think “inside the
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is giving tax breaks
to 13 businesses around the state in hopes of creating 1,417 jobs and
spurring $83 million in investment. Seven of the projects are in the
Hamilton, Butler and Clinton counties, with one in Cincinnati.
The Ohio House easily passed a bill that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, but the Ohio Senate is including the measure in a more comprehensive gambling bill.
Senate President Keith Faber says there are a lot of issues related to
gambling in Ohio, and the cafes are just one part of the problem.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is one of many being targeted
by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control ad campaign. Bloomberg is a
leader in supporting more restrictive gun measures, and he’s planning
on airing the ads in 13 states during the ongoing congressional spring
break to push for stricter background checks and other new rules.
Ohio failed to show improvement
in the latest infrastructure report card from the American Society of
Civil Engineers (ASCE). In both 2009 and 2013, Ohio got a C- for its
infrastructure, which translates to 2,462 structurally deficient bridges
and puts about 42 percent of roadways as “poor” or “mediocre” quality.
But the report might not be as bad as it sounds. The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer argues that the ASCE is notoriously too harsh.
A study from NerdWallet found Cincinnati is the No. 1 city in the nation for consumer banking.
Duke Energy rolled out a new logo yesterday.
A former Miami University student is facing charges for allegedly changing his grades.
More options aren’t always a good thing, according to some science. A new study found more choices can lead to bad, risky decisions.
Jim Neil's unlikely road to Hamilton County sheriff signals a new day for the department
1 Comment · Thursday, January 3, 2013
Most Cincinnatians have only known two
sheriffs during their lifetime, and for a majority — almost 30 years —
that sheriff was Simon Leis. Leis retired as Hamilton County’s top cop in 2012 after 25 years. He’ll be succeeded by Democrat Jim Neil on Jan. 4 — the first time in more than 36 years that a Democrat has held the office.
0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
Outgoing Hamilton County Sheriff Simon
Leis is retiring after his current term and Jim Neil will replace him on
Jan. 6, 2013, but that doesn’t mean Leis is done with public life.