Ohio appeals court overturns part of ban on homeless camps


CINCINNATI (AP) — A judge’s ban on homeless camps in the county that includes Cincinnati can apply to public land but not to private property, an Ohio appeals court has ruled.

The First District Court of Appeals issued its ruling Friday in a lawsuit filed against Hamilton County Judge Robert Ruehlman by the ACLU of Ohio on behalf of New Prospect Baptist Church in Cincinnati.

The church sought to create a refuge for the homeless on its 4-acre property in the city’s Roselawn neighborhood.

The dispute began in 2018 with Cincinnati’s efforts to clear a homeless encampment near popular downtown venues. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters at Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s request sued the city, calling such encampments a public nuisance and health hazard.

Ruehlman subsequently ruled that encampments throughout the county were illegal and said law enforcement officers could seize tents and other belongings from homeless people. He also ruled that anyone who defies the ban could face arrest.

The appeals court in its ruling said Ruehlman’s permanent injunction banning homeless camps on public property is legal, but not for private property where camps meet Ohio regulations and provide water and proper sanitation.

Messages seeking comment were left Saturday with a spokeswoman for the county prosecutor’s office.