November 21, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain police evict homeless from railroad company property

A group of homeless people who lived in the area known as "tent city" on property in Lorain owned by CSX Railroad were told to leave Friday. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

A group of homeless people who lived in the area known as “tent city” on property in Lorain owned by CSX Railroad were told to leave Friday. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

LORAIN — The Lorain Police Department and CSX Railroad are evicting more than a dozen homeless people from a wooded area just off Broadway and telling them they have 48 hours to vacate the tent city.

The edict was handed down without warning Friday morning. The many people that call the overgrown area home said they were away showering at the St. Joseph Overnight Homeless Shelter on nearby West 15th Street and returned to find their surroundings trashed. Yellow signs were tacked to trees and placed on tables warning people about trespassing on the property.

It has left many wondering what they will do next.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Kenny Durbin, 64. “I have family, but I don’t want to put a burden on them.”

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Those living in tent city have until the end of the weekend to move.

Durbin said he ended up at tent city about three weeks ago. He lives in a burgundy and tan camping tent given to him by a local church. It was still standing Friday while he contemplated his next step.

He counts himself as one of the lucky ones.

Upon returning to tent city, many found their individual campsites trashed, with items strewn around and tents crushed. They blame Lorain police for the destruction.

“Telling us to move is one thing, but destroying our property is another thing,” said a man named K.C. “This is all people have.”

Lorain police Capt. Roger Watkins said officers did not destroy anyone’s campsite when they swept through.

“The bottom line is that is private property owned by CSX Railroad, and they do not want them there or to be liable for anything that happens with them being there,” Watkins said.

“Legally, we have to enforce the wishes of the property owner. We did that, but we did not destroy anyone’s personal property.”

Residents of tent city have until the end of the weekend to move, Watkins said. Some are eligible to go to the Haven Center run by the Neighborhood Alliance. To do so they must be willing to follow the shelter’s rules and work a case plan toward self-sufficiency.

“I know a lot of them back there don’t want to do that, but that doesn’t mean they get to stay,” Watkins said. “We have spoken to Catholic Charities to see if there is any way they can help. I don’t know what else to say.”

Carla Groleau, a spokeswoman for CSX Railroad, said the company cannot allow the tent city to stay. In order to get to the many campsites obscured from view on Broadway, the campers have to cross two sets of tracks.

“As you know, it is illegal to be on our property, as well as unsafe,” she said. “We have operations nearby that we have to be mindful of.”

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Residents of tent city say they returned to the campsite to find their belongings thrown around.

But if you ask Luis Wheeler, 40, the reason why tent city is being evicted now can be traced back to the disappearance and search for missing woman Kathleena Burke, who was last in Lorain on June 1.

Wheeler said he and Burke have three children together.

“Everyone back here loved Kat,” Wheeler said. He was holding her missing person’s flier. “I don’t think anyone back here hurt her.”

Wheeler said police have searched the campsite repeatedly since Burke was reported missing.

He thinks police want the homeless out of the area so they can search more for clues.

“It really shocked me when the officers said, ‘As soon as we get information on Kat, we will leave everyone alone,’” Wheeler said.

Watkins said police are aware that Burke was last seen near the tent city but disputes claims of targeting tent city because of her.

“We’re not saying anyone is connected, but that is the last place that we know Kathleena Burke to have been,” Watkins said. “Crimes have happened down there — assaults and attempted rapes.”

Tent city is about more than just the homeless there who are being asked to leave, said Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer.

“That wasn’t our decision. The city administration is not forcing them out,” he said. “But it does speak to the overall needs of the homeless population in the county.”

While the St. Joseph Overnight Homeless Shelter does allow the homeless to come in to shower a few times a week during the summer, it only opens for overnight shelter from October to April. Currently, it is looking for a new location to replace its West 15th Street facility.

At one point, it was announced that it would move into the former Horizon Daycare center at 205 W. 14th St., but that plan is not working out, Ritenauer said.

“We are continuing to look for alternatives, but there needs to be a collective approach to this program in the county,” Ritenauer said. “When you look at shelters that we do have, you will see that the people don’t all come from Lorain. Other communities need to be in on this conversation. Where would the county be if Lorain didn’t have any homeless shelters?”

In the meantime, that leaves the residents of the former tent city without a place to call home.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” Wheeler said. “I have already asked police if I can set my tent up in front of City Hall because I don’t know what else to do.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.


  • cali corn ya

    Obama is catering to all the illegal immigrants crossing the boarders setting them up in hotels across America by the bus loads ,but yet the democrat FAIL to realize we have a homeless and job shortage HERE in the states.

    • DJ Dell

      Most cops and business leaders, members of the justice department, judges, prosecutors are Republicans. Or at least the majority are who are heartless bullies. They’d kick a homeless person, they’d kick a puppy.

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        Bullshit.

      • Sis Delish

        And, the alternative?

        Chaos with Democrats in-charge which put these poor fellas in Tents in the first place.

      • oldruss

        Don’t know what world you live in, DJ Dell, but the last time I looked, each and every city council member in Lorain, and each and every executive officer in Lorain, and each and every judge of the Lorain municipal court; and each and every executive office at the county, together with two out of three county commissioners were DEMOCRATS. Specifically, the county prosecutor is a DEMOCRAT. The Lorain law director is a DEMOCRAT. The mayor of Elyria is a DEMOCRAT. The law director in Elyria is a DEMOCRAT. A majority of the City Council members in Elyria are DEMOCRATS. In short, DJ Dell, you don’t know what in the blazes you’re talking about!

      • BITTERCLINGER36

        hahahahaha……..yea, cause republicans are a force to be reckoned with in Lorain County, you sir/ma’am are a doofus.

      • golfingirl

        You obviously are not from the area.

        Democrats control most local governments in Lorain County, at least those which are in despair.

        I suggest you do your homework before making such a ridiculous and factual incorrect statement!

    • Tim Francis

      Yep, we need to take care of our homeless instead of bringing people in from other countries and housing them. This country should not have a homeless problem.

  • Phil Blank

    Isn’t that the property where they wanted to build the new school?
    And if it really is CSX property, why doesn’t the CSX railroad police chase them out instead of putting it on the city police.

    • Simon Jester

      Do you really want to open the Private Law enforcement can of worms?

  • Lee Brown

    Knew this was going to happen,the place was in the news to much lately.good job of reporting on people who are struggling just to survive in the woods,bothering no one.

  • Sis Delish

    What? The City didn’t take this opportunity to levy a Tent Tax on these fellas?

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    A. There are shelters available for some of them, but “they must be willing to follow the shelter’s rules and work a case plan toward self-sufficiency.”

    B. Let them set up their tents in your yards.

    • michelle

      Shelters are open from Oct. to April. Where would you have them go?

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        Apparently you didn’t read the article or do the research. Don’t worry, I did the work for you. Now you can go back to saving the planet while not knowing what you’re talking about.

        “We proudly operate and run the Haven Center — Lorain County’s only 24-hour, 365-day emergency shelter for men, women and children.”

        http://www.myneighborhoodalliance.org/shelter/haven-center-homeless-shelter

        • michelle

          I read the article. I read about beds only being available at St. Joe’s from Oct. to April. That is what I was replying to and I am glad I was able to provide you with an opportunity to use your acerbic wit and sarcasm. Your welcome.

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            It’s you’re, not your.

            And the reference to the Haven Center was also in the article.

          • zhyn

            I go to AA meetings with people from the haven center, good luck getting in there. Its full and has a long waiting list..maybe you should have looked into it more than just reading a article and all of a sudden are a “know it all”

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            I did look into it and I concluded there is help available there if you’re willing to work for it. Something most of these people lack is respect for rules and respect for themselves.

            I wish you the best in your continued recovery.

          • michelle

            Wow. A mistake in grammar. Call the cops!

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            And don’t let it happen again or we will evict you!

          • michelle

            hahahaha

          • givemeabreak1234

            You are acerbic wit or your acerbic wit. Hmmmmm

          • michelle

            He was referring to “your welcome.” It should have been your’re welcome. Nothing gets by Larry……

          • Larry Crnobrnja

            Yeah, what michelle said (below). LOL

      • Scout

        Michelle where do they go between April and September?

        • michelle

          The weather at least isn’t too inclement……

          • Scout

            True

  • Jeff

    Cali totally agree with you!!!!Why cater to illegal immigrants when you need to worry and fix the problems in your own backyard!!!!!!!!We have homeless,jobless,people starving but go ahead and let the illegals come in and add to everything !!!! Worry whats in your own backyard and help your people first fearless leader!!!!!!!!!!!!What a joke!!!!!!

    • BITTERCLINGER36

      Um, because once the illegals are “normalized” there will be countless lawsuits under “equal protection” declaring that having a second tier of citizenry is un-constitutional and some federal judge will simply deem them citizens with voting rights. The vast vast majority of these 3rd world imports will be government dependent’s ie democrats……The RINO’s are not innocent either. They want the permanent underclass to ensure low wage workers will be plentiful. The RINO’s are not doing much of anything to stop this because they want it, but they know their base does not……their base being actual citizens, and this allows them to think they are held harmless in the matter.

  • Caroline Holbrook
  • simplyhonest

    This is so bogus! Who even knows how to find a shelter in Lorain county. 211 couldn’t even tell me. in 2012 I had both legs amputated and was in need of assistance. I had to go out to Cleveland to get help and was very fortunate that my pay as you go phone had a Cleveland phone number and 211 in Cuyahoga County led me to a shelter on the East Side of Cleveland. Lorain County doesn’t want to help the homeless or sick! They just want to push them out of the County!!!

  • golfingirl

    It is private property, they have no right to be there and have to leave.

    Can’t be more simpler than that.

    Don’t like it, have a sleepover at your house.

    • tickmeoff

      They are homeless! How can you have a sleepover if you don’t own a house.

      • 2muchgovernment

        I think golfingirl was implying that YOU should host the sleepover.

        • Tim Brookes

          We could do that, or we could suggest real ideas.
          That would be part of the solution.
          But those who never experienced a struggle seem to be the first who accuse those who are struggling.

          • golfingirl

            You first.

            What is your solution?

            One that is a “real solution,” not just another entitlement which allows them to continue on with their lifestyle, on the taxpayers dime.

            Maybe they can work for their room and board? Fill potholes, cut weeds, paint city property.

            My guess is most would not even show up for this work.

            Just keep having children that they have no means, and intentions, of supporting.

        • Scout

          ahahah yes

      • golfingirl

        Duh!

        Really?

        The sleepover is at your house!

  • Phil Blank

    PBS Newshour:
    July 19, 2014 at 2:41 PM EDT

    Homelessness now a crime in cities throughout the U.S. 

    It’s now harder than ever to be homeless in America. 

    Increasingly, laws that criminalize homelessness are cropping up in cities throughout the country, while simultaneously, a national shortage of shelter beds and housing options is roiling the system.

    Since 2001, the U.S. has lost nearly 13 percent of its low-income housing according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty that surveyed 187 cities.
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/homelessness-now-crime-cities-throughout-u-s/

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      I wonder how much of this is the result of alcoholism or drug dependency?

  • Tim Francis

    I thought there was a tent city behind gathering hope house on 254 and someone told me there’s a tent city behind welfare? Anyway isn’t this something that the railroads have done everywhere from time to time in the past? There’s definitely a need for more shelters or shelter areas.

  • Tim Francis

    Hmm could it possibly be because Lorain will be in the spotlight due to the rover show concert and they don’t want people to see this?

    • michelle

      I highly doubt it.

  • GreatRedeemer

    This became public knowledge and of course something had to
    be done. The best homeless shelters are off the beaten path but close enough to
    a street for light, I imagine this suits the bill there, but they allowed it to
    become known and nobody wants the homeless on their land. I’m sure there is a
    myriad of social needs, but homeless does not mean broke, some of them get EBT, have welfare phones, sell plasma or work day labor. They won’t go away they will relocate like they always have. Now if I was a homeless guy, Id move to a more temperate climate and one that has a more liberal climate toward beat nicking… ala Berkley style.

  • Aktap

    Protect and serve my rear end.

  • rigidlevis

    you mean to tell me, that every room at St Joseph Community Center is occupied? I very well doubt that. Some of those rooms can be used for the homeless, but just like the shelters, there are rules that need to be followed in order to stay. I have to admit some of the homeless are in that situation at their own accord. They do not want to follow rules or do anything but ly around getting high. NOw I don’t want to discriminate against the true hearted homeless, who try to fit in, but with no luck.

  • givemeabreak1234

    Maybe they found her in Cleveland today and the tents can got back up

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    Quit being an oxygen sucker…

  • golfingirl

    One of the residents of tent city, Luis Wheeler says…..

    “……he and Burke have three children together.”

    He is 40yo, she is 25 yo…they have three kids!

    She is a heroin addict, he lives in a tent.

    Take some responsibility and act like a man, Mr. Wheeler!

    You want sympathy, I have it for your children, but not for you. You created the life you now live, and the taxpayers are left “holding the bag” for your kids.

    If you can breath and move, you can work!

    Take responsibility for your own life, actions and decisions….including having three children with a heroin addict!

  • Kristie Szabo

    Any of you that are against this eviction can open your doors to these homeless people. Everyone is so quick to blame the city, police, etc. The majority of these people are drug addicts choosing this lifestyle. They are well known with law enforcement and instead of working they steal from residents of the city, sell the stolen goods, get their drugs and return to their tent city. Might I add they are in private property so they have NO rights to be there.

  • Reagan

    I own a five acre lot in Avon Lake they are welcome to move there.

    • golfingirl

      Sure, give them a bow and arrow and they can also feed themselves.

      • Reagan

        I have owned this land for almost forty years, I’ll never sell it. Anyway I don’t need the money.

        • golfingirl

          So is your offer sincere?

          My guess is it would never fly in Avon Lake….laughing.