City officials say homeless camp was 'cleaned' not 'cleared'
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The summer heat is one reason why many of Louisville's homeless set up camp near Jefferson and Preston Streets under Interstate 65.
The underpass provides both shade and shelter from storms. But Tuesday morning, homeless people camped there said city workers threw away their belongings without warning.
Louisville Metro Council drafted an ordinance to give the homeless a 21 day notice if they have to leave a camp. In this case, the state owns the property, so it's not required, but the state agreed to follow the ordinance.
Despite that, city officials said a 21 day notice was not required Tuesday because city crews and Louisville Metro Police officers only cleaned the area.
The space under I-65 at Jefferson Street is home to Cashmere Mitchell, and it's a shelter without being inside the shelter (Wayside Christian Mission) next door.
"Most people's stuff is neat, but as you know we're homeless so it looks messy," he said.
Tuesday morning, he didn't expect what happened.
"We see the trucks rolling in," he said. "We didn't think anything of it."
He explained while people were at breakfast, city workers and police started throwing their belongings away.
"So, I guess they seen it as a sore to the city, which is fair, but you know, we are still human too," he said.
Mitchell, a former athlete, said an addiction to spice got him here. He said he and a couple of guys have warehouse jobs, but come back to the area under the interstate because they don't have enough money for rent.
"I told them (city workers) a couple of my buddies are at work what do you want me to do," he said. Mitchell said the workers asked, "Can you move their belongings?" To which he said, "I don't want to touch their things, I wouldn't want nobody moving my things."
He said their stuff was thrown away, and he was told to get out.
"It was really a routine clean up," Eric Friedlander, Louisville Metro's Chief Resilience and Community Services Chief, said.
Friedlander said Solid Waste workers and Louisville Metro Police officers were only picking up trash. He said he didn't know of any personal property being thrown away.
"It would be disappointing if that happened," Friedlander said. "I really think we are trying to be far more sensitive."
Friedlander explained it was not a clear out.
"A clear out is for folks not to come back, when we ask them to take their stuff and not to come back," he explained.
But, it's possible city workers hinted a clear out may be coming.
"We're going to post -- there will be a 21 day notice," Friedlander said. "There are air rights under there that the Department of Transportation owns and the city and Wayside Christian Mission are trying to negotiate what those air rights are and who owns that. We will ask folks to leave and not come back, but that was not what today was."
For Mitchell and others, moving again is emotional.
"We're fathers, mothers who might have missed a bill," he said with tears streaming down his face. "Now they are out here, you know or they did something wrong, made a mistake, but they're out here and it's kind of hard."
Mayor Greg Fischer told WAVE 3 News Tuesday afternoon that several organizations are bringing food, clothing and other staples to people living on the street.
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