By Greg Sherels
When I walk the streets of my home town, Cleveland, Ohio, I see many more people sleeping on the street in 2015 than when I was a younger man. (Editor’s Note: The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has regular statistics on the number of people sleeping Downtown on their website under Education.) In a number of countries and even some cities in the US, homelessness and street sleeping is actually illegal and punishable by imprisonment. For example, In India, the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act is used to clear the street of homeless people when important events are going to take place. Editor’s Note: The National Coalition for the Homeless under publications on their website has a report detailing all the laws directed at homeless people in the United States. Many other countries report similar “cosmetic” clearing of the streets. It is vital that, where they exist, these laws be challenged and overturned.
One of my own experiences with this street clearing was when I stayed in Painesville, Ohio. I had gotten paroled to my brother’s house and stayed in Painesville for four years. During that time I witnessed homeless people that were sleeping in the park or even just sitting amongst themselves being approached by police and asked for identification and asked to leave the park. Some people have even been banned from the park forever. There were no signs stating that they weren’t allowed to sleep in the park or the consequences for doing so. I, myself, have been banned from this park in their Downtown Public Square mainly because an event was coming up or taking place at that time. So many places in America have problems with homelessness and street sleeping, and as countries, states, and in my opinion the homeless population will get worse.
There may be one possibility to alleviate some homeless situations at least for some of our younger homeless people – Adverse Possession. “When a trespasser has occupied property for 21 years in Ohio, he may be able to acquire legal ownership through adverse possession.” Legally, this means occupying or taking possession of property that does not belong to the squatter and doing so without the rightful owner’s permission. Ohio state laws require that this occupancy keep the place up for 21 years continuously without interruption before the squatter can claim ownership. In addition, the possession must be without the owner’s consent, with occupancy out in the open indicating to observers that the squatter appears to actually belong on the property. I think that this should be reduced to a more reasonable time of 7 years especially property that is falling apart.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015 all rights reserved