- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) - Patrick Moe lost everything he owned last November when police and city workers from Akron conducted a sweep through a large encampment where dozens of homeless people lived in tents.

Among the belongings Moe lost were irreplaceable photos of his late wife, Tiffany, who died of heart failure in 2012.

“They were the only ones I had,” said Moe, 45. “It was as if they burned my house down.”

With the help of some law students and a professor from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Moe and 10 other people who have lost their belongings during sweeps of homeless camps are suing Akron city officials, including Mayor Don Plusquellic and Police Chief James Nice, to be paid for their losses and to change city policies regarding treatment of the homeless. The suit was filed Friday in federal court in Akron.

“Even the homeless have rights and are entitled to procedural due process,” said law professor Avidan Cover, adding that the sweeps leave people “homeless for a second time.”

Plusquellic’s spokeswoman referred questions to the law director, who did not return calls on Friday.

The lawsuit cites a 2013 report that says between 800 and 900 homeless people live in and around Akron. The city began aggressively enforcing loitering, trespassing and panhandling laws in 2010 after business owners complained about the encampments, the lawsuit said. That enforcement included sweeps resulting in in city workers trashing the belongings of those who lived in tent cities.

The suit claims that some sweeps occurred where the homeless had been told they could camp.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is George Suppan, 55. The suit claims that Suppan lost his clothes, shoes and winter boots during the November sweep, which led to Suppan suffering from frost bite during the unusually harsh winter and having two toes amputated. The suit claims he still suffers from the ill-effects of frost bite.

Moe said he became homeless after his wife died. He said he earned a college degree after eight years in the Marine Corps and operated a couple of small businesses for a time. He said he stayed home to care for Tiffany during the last years of her life. He said he could no longer afford to pay rent without his wife’s disability checks. He found a place to live for a time, but said that didn’t work out.

After the November sweep, Moe received another tent from a charity and returned to the same stretch of woods, willing to take his chances. He caught a break in January when he moved into transitional housing for the homeless. He said he wants to force Akron to change how it deals with the homeless.

“If I take all the stuff in your house, I’m wrong,” Moe said. “Same difference.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide