Civic Center Garage to begin evening lockdown

Updated: 08/20/2014 5:38 PM
Created: 08/20/2014 9:15 AM WHEC.com
By: Rebecca Fath

A downtown parking garage, where some homeless seek shelter, is closings its doors to them tonight.

The Civic Center garage on Fitzhugh Street is privately owned but it's used by some homeless as a shelter. We’re told homeless advocates have had months to find a new place to live for about a dozen people who sleep there at night.

Wednesday afternoon, a group stood near the garage holding signs, asking for the homeless population to be able to stay here for a few more months.

In the crowd of protestors is one man who's been homeless himself. Michael Risida describes what it's like living on the streets. “Rotten emptiness. Cold emptiness.” That what Risida says the group of about a dozen people living in the garage will feel if they're kicked out tonight.

Barbara Hughes is an advocate for the homeless. She said, “I don't think it would be right because they're a person no matter what. They just don't have what other people have. It's just bad that they would have to be kicked out like this.”

Sister Grace Miller of the House of Mercy said, “They could come and go as they pleased and that's what they need. And to have that taken away from them so abruptly even though they said yeah we're going to do it, it still isn't time because we don't have the building.”

Advocates say they had a space but it fell through. The garage owner says he delayed the crackdown to give homeless advocates time to find adequate housing.

Just three blocks away, the Open Door Mission has room for them immediately. Chris Scribani said, “They stay with us for 14 days and they get help. They get help from our staff to work through whatever's keeping them from whatever situation that would allow them housing or allow them a job.”

But advocates say many of the people living here aren't ready to live by the rules and regulations of the shelters in the city.

Risida got off the streets and is now living in a home but he insists the homeless population here needs more time. “Give them a couple more days to work it out. Don't throw them out.”

There will be security in the garage and it will be closing its doors at night. All entrances to the garage will now close at 8 p.m. on weekday nights, 5 p.m. on weekends and an hour after any event at the Blue Cross Arena. Drivers will still be able to exit the garage.

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