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Fight for the Homeless Ramps up in Des Moines

Social-service groups say evicting people from Des Moines' homeless camps simply moves the problem instead of solving it. (tom stovall/Flickr)
Social-service groups say evicting people from Des Moines' homeless camps simply moves the problem instead of solving it. (tom stovall/Flickr)
August 22, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa — A fight for the homeless is ramping up in Des Moines. Eviction notices with a deadline of August 29th went up at several locations where the city’s homeless often set up camp.

Opponents of that strategy will gather outside City Council chambers on Monday afternoon to rally against the evictions. They will also advocate for the city to release information on eviction policies and procedures, according Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, a member of the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community. He said that so far, the city has failed to release that information.

"We would like to see the complaints that the city says are the driver of the evictions, but the city has not made that information publicly available,” Jorgensen-Briggs said. "So, we don't know where the disconnect is. "

Bulldozers and dump trucks have been used in the past to clear out waste after a homeless camp was shut down. City leaders said that when they receive a complaint, they must comply with city code. Advocates for the homeless placed an item on Monday's City Council agenda and plan to speak during the meeting.

Jorgensen-Briggs said the homeless camp evictions are simply moving the problem around. He said the city's homeless residents should be treated with compassion and provided with places to live before they are forced out of campsites.

"The city even owns residential property,” Jorgensen-Briggs said. "The city has it within its power to go out to these campsites, find out who people are, find out what their needs are, and give them what they need."

City leaders have said that some homeless residents don't want to go to shelters, and cited a shortage of affordable permanent housing. Meanwhile, Joppa Outreach, a homeless services organization, has continued to push the city for approval to build a transitional housing village.

Information on transitional housing in Central Iowa is available here.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA