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Ruling in Cleveland Homeless Case

August 4, 2000

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A judge on Thursday ordered the city to find shelter for homeless people who were kicked out of an abandoned bakery building that the city condemned and started to demolish.

Homeless advocates filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop demolition of the inner city building where the homeless said they’ve lived for 21 years. The lawsuit was filed hours after the city started tearing down the 1929 building, and both sides agreed the structure couldn’t be saved.

Attorney Gino Scarselli argued Thursday that the city had an obligation to find adequate housing for the homeless who had been living there. He said the homeless had squatters’ rights and the city violated their rights by destroying the building.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Curran ordered Law Director Cornell Carter to work with the homeless to find adequate shelter. The judge said the damages portion of the lawsuit would be decided later.

``The city and mayor are committed to working with the homeless,″ Carter said.

Scarselli said after the ruling that he was afraid the city would do little more than look for space in a shelter for the homeless.

``I’m not really confident that we will see any serious effort to bring this to a just resolution,″ he said.

The city’s policies regarding the homeless have caused controversy in the past. In November, Mayor Michael R. White announced increased police enforcement aimed at panhandlers and street crime, which advocates say targeted the homeless.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued, alleging the city’s arrests of homeless people for sleeping on city streets were unconstitutional. The city settled the lawsuit by agreeing to not arrest people who were performing innocent, harmless and inoffensive acts, such as sleeping.

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