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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

City Smells a Rat. No Wait, That's a Bum

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2007 at 1:03 PM

bum.jpg
What? You don't want this guy peeing on your shoe on the way to work?
Cleveland’s homeless population just decreased. At least in Public Square. And by decreased, we mean simply moved out of view. So not really. But Frank Jackson would like you to think so anyway, especially if you usually don’t come downtown. See, for the last 10 years, churches and other charitable groups have given out food to the homeless at Public Square. It’s a central location with benches and plenty of other places for the impoverished to receive and enjoy their meals. But it's one of downtown's most heavily traveled blocks, and the food program has made it difficult to traverse without occasionally tripping over a guy taking a snooze in a sleeping bag fashioned from Scene magazines and Jimmy John wrappers. Then, in October, the city inspected the site and found 24 rat boroughs, which they blamed on the food provided for the homeless. Officials ordered an end to the 10-year charitable practice in the heart of Cleveland. “It was completely filthy and not safe. Homeless people were being bitten by rats,” Natoya Walker, special assistant of public affairs for Mayor Frank Jackson, told the Plain Dealer. “Public Square is for the public. We can’t let it be taken over by vermin.” Presumably, Walker was referring to the rats as vermin, and not the homeless, but you can never be sure. Hell, she might have been talking about her boss. Who are we to say? It all sounds a little coincidental, especially considering that volunteers claim that in their 10 years on the square, they have never seen a rat. And if trash and food is going to attract rats, wouldn’t it be in the summer? Wouldn’t the heat bring out the rats – not the fall chill? It's also notable that the rat problem cropped up just around the time when they hope to bring in droves of suburbanites downtown to shop and check out the holiday decorations – guess where? -- in Public Square. It reminds us of the countless cities that have hosted the Super Bowl -- notably, Detroit and Jacksonville -- and shipped local homeless populations out of the city just in time for their big shining moment with tourists, only to bring them back when everyone leaves. We're not saying it's a bad con. But it is definitely a con. -- Vince Grzegorek

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