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Small homeless encampment removed by city of Rochester

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Rose Colon was one of six people living at the site. She says she has been homeless in Rochester for three years, and wants that to end. - PHOTO BY JAMES BROWN / WXXI NEWS
  • PHOTO BY JAMES BROWN / WXXI NEWS
  • Rose Colon was one of six people living at the site. She says she has been homeless in Rochester for three years, and wants that to end.
A city of Rochester bulldozer removed a homeless encampment Thursday on Loomis Street near Joseph and Clifford Avenues.

Advocates from the nonprofit Recovery All Ways organization say that nearby church leaders complained about the encampment.

A statement from city spokesperson Justin Roj said they received complaints from multiple neighbors about debris, trash, and evidence of drug activity.

"The amount of debris and trash was so significant in some spots that the City could not get its equipment onto the lots," Roj said in an email. "The owner of a private parcel was cited by the City’s Neighborhood Service Center for excessive trash and debris and failed to comply with orders to clean up the property within the allowed time frame, resulting in Environmental Services crews being ordered to perform the cleanup according to City protocol."

Roj said residents of the encampment and the nonprofit Person Centered Housing Options (PCHO) were given multiple weeks notice of the removal. PCHO staff and volunteers from Recovery All Ways were there Thursday to offer assistance to the six residents.

The encampment included a ratty tent filled with random things: a fan, an old chest of drawers, a futon and so much more. City employees removed this tent and several others like it from Loomis Street Thursday. They also cut the lawn and removed needles from the grass.

Six people lived here including Rose Colon. She said she’s been homeless in Rochester for three years and wants that to end.

“I just want a place I can call home,” Colon said. “(I want to) have a place where I can wake up and not worry about anybody trying to attack me.”

She was frank about her battles with addiction, saying she switches from heroin to cocaine to K2 (synthetic marijuana) and back again. She said she wants treatment but it's not easy to get.

“Sometimes they don’t got no bed,” Colon continued. “Sometimes we gotta wait 24 hours, we gotta wait this, we gotta wait that, listen we’re dying out here, we’re dying out here.”
What was left of a homeless encampment on Loomis Street near Joseph Avenue. City of Rochester employees dismantled it Thursday. - PHOTO BY JAMES BROWN / WXXI NEWS
  • PHOTO BY JAMES BROWN / WXXI NEWS
  • What was left of a homeless encampment on Loomis Street near Joseph Avenue. City of Rochester employees dismantled it Thursday.
Lisa Kuhmann, who supervises the homeless outreach team from PCHO’s team, warned the residents that the city was coming and helped them get their valuables out of the way of the bulldozers.

She said the city provided bags to help the residents move but she warned them and the community that removing one encampment does little to fix the problem.

“When you get rid of someone’s stuff they just move to another place because they don’t always have choices or options," Kuhmann said.

Kuhmann said her organization is already in contact with Monroe County as they seek financial assistance for the six residents. She said the residents will likely head to a motel, while PCHO shapes plans with them for mental health treatment or handling other issues.

James Brown is a reporter for WXXI, a media partner of CITY.