Monday, August 20, 2007

Out of the woods, into the courts

Michael Kuhn has settled into another spot a year after police bulldozed the camp where he and 11 other homeless people lived.

Photo by the Baltimore Sun

Donnie Brewer still mourns the loss of his grandfather’s ring.

Nearly a year ago, he left the ring with the rest of his belongings in a camp in woods owned by the town of Elkton, Maryland. He thought it would be safe there among his fellow homeless squatters.

What he didn’t know that August morning was that the town planned to bulldoze the group’s tents and belongings and clear them out of the woods.

Brewer's family heirloom ended up in the dump, along with family photos. Others lost a family Bible, a wedding band, food, clothing, blankets, and even medical supplies.

Brewer is one of eight homeless men and women present that day who have filed a lawsuit against the town for taking and destroying their property without warning.

The plaintiffs allege the town has engaged in a harassment campaign designed to drive out the homeless population. They say they are regularly targeted by police and arrested for such crimes as disorderly conduct or public drunkenness, only to have the charges dropped. Harassment recently came to a head, they allege, with a loitering ordinance that went into effect June 26.

“The Town’s senseless seizure and destruction of the clothing, blankets, medications and irreplaceable personal mementoes of its poorest residents was cruel and indefensible,” said Deborah A. Jeon, legal director for the ACLU of Maryland. “If our society is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us, officials of the Town of Elkton have much to answer for.”

Read the Baltimore Sun story here.


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