ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Leaders within the City of Rochester discussed what’s next now that they are building a fence surrounding what was a homeless camp on Loomis Street. This comes after the lot was cleared on Monday following, what officials claim, to be intense and ongoing efforts to place individuals.

“Once the fence is complete, the Loomis Street encampment will be fully inaccessible. This action was necessary in a balance of the needs of those who have been living at Loomis with the needs of the neighborhood,” says Corporation Counsel for the city, Linda Kingsley.

Loomis Street sits in the 14621 zip code, a location the city says facing several ongoing challenges, much of this surrounding a lack of suitable housing.

“This area is probably one of our most diverse areas in the city, but 40% of the population in this area live below the poverty line, 60% of the children in this area live below the poverty line. The median household income is about $27,582. 85% of the population is minority,” Mayor Malik Evans says.

Kingsley also discussed other actions the city has taken in the 14621 zip code, with the use of tools within the gun violence proclamation.

“1085 Norton was a location that was not licensed to have any kind of entertainment or parties and was hosting — blatantly hosting — illegal parties. The Mayor talked about renewing the Gun Violence Emergency…we know that many acts of gun violence have occurred at these illegal parties and we used the gun violence proclamation to issue a closure order, shutting that location down,” Kingsley says.

The mayor also briefly touched upon other known homeless camp sites around the city, one being near Hudson Ave and another near Meigs Street. The city is working with the state to address those spots.

Rochester police did confirm a 52-year-old man who had been living in a tent in the Loomis Street encampment site was the person who recently died. A cause of death is still being determined by the county medical examiner.

Statement from housing advocates:

CITIZEN ACTION AND VOCAL-NY STATEMENT ON ROCHESTER’S SWEEPS OF HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS

November 29, 2022 (Rochester, NY) – Everyone deserves a safe place to live. Citizen Action of New York and VOCAL-NY condemn the targeted harassment of unhoused residents of Rochester–including the sweeps of homeless encampments on Loomis Street–by the city government. Together with local advocates, we call upon Mayor Malik Evans and City Council to stop the continued attacks on our unhoused population and work with the community to find sustainable solutions that don’t continue the cycle of harm.

No one should be harassed and made to feel unsafe in their own space. Unhoused people do not have any form of protection against sudden and violent eviction and the seizure of their property. Forced ‘sweeps’ of encampments threaten their survival and put people at unnecessary risk, without reducing homelessness or addressing the problems that cause it.

The use of Rochester’s police force to harass and criminalize unhoused residents and the people attempting to support them, is unconscionable. This is a misuse of city resources and it creates severe and unnecessary collateral consequences. Unhoused residents are being scapegoated for deeper problems that police are unable to address.

City shelters are an important lifeline for many people experiencing homelessness, but these shelters are not a suitable place for every unhoused person. Many shelters are filled with violence that puts residents at risk and some have requirements–like abandoning pets–that people cannot comply with. Furthermore, there is a shortage of available beds in the currently available shelters.

Rochester is the fourth poorest city in the United States and many residents are struggling to make rent. A severe lack of low-cost housing and legal protections for tenants in existing housing causes many people to be homeless or housing insecure.

The City of Rochester has shown once again that property matters more than people. Citizen Action and VOCAL-NY are united in solidarity with unhoused residents and advocates, as we call upon Mayor Malik Evans and Rochester City Council to put an end to the sweeps and work with the community to find sustainable solutions that don’t continue the cycle of harm. Housing is a human right, and unhoused people have a right to be safe and keep the property they have to shelter themselves.