Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sixteen Arrested in Call for Fair Housing

Sixteen homeless advocates were arrested last night in Nashville, Tennessee and charged with criminal trespassing during an action to raise awareness about the need for more low income housing for the homeless. Among those arrested was Father Charlie Stroebel, founder of the Nashville Homeless Mission, which provides food and temporary shelter to hundreds in the homeless community. Also arrested was Cheri Honkala, of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, who was in Nashville to stand in solidarity with the homeless camp.

The camp, called "Without Housing" was organized by members of the Nashville Homeless Power Project, an organization composed of homeless, formerly homeless and their allies, which advocates for the rights of the homeless in Nashville. The organization was recently featured in the news concerning the case of Tamara Cole, a homeless woman who drowned after being pushed off a bridge by young men who were harrassing the homeless. Homeless advocates believed that Cole's body was underneath a barge which the city refused to move, until the Power Project held a vigil and campaign to recover her body, which was found underneath the barge.

The "Without Housing" camp was intended to coincide with the release of the Mayor's budget to draw attention to the need for more low income housing for the homeless. Carmon Ryals, of the The Nashville Homeless Power Project says that the mayor has promised an additional 200 low income housing units this year, but has only delivered on fifty additional housing units. The campaign is designed to bring public pressure to the mayor to deliver the additional housing units.

The homeless advocates arrested last night were charged with criminal trespassing after refusing to leave the homeless camp when their permit expired at 11pm. The organizers were planning to hold their camp on the lawn in front of the city building through friday, but after the arrests the camp was taken down. Many of those at the camp were planning to spend the night on the city lawn to experience homeless first hand, including Nashville vice-mayor Howard Gentry.

Those arrested in the action were: Don Beisswenger, Pam Beziat, Mitzi Cerjan, Will Conelly, Clemmie Greenlee, Cheri Honkala, Stanislav Kupferschmidt, Tony Mazzoli, Karl Meyer, Rodney Peoples, Sam Ruggero, Charles Strobel, Glem Uther, Bryan White, John Zirker, and Joe X.

Members of the Homeless Project are planning to attend the Mayor’s Budget address this Friday morning at 8am in the Metro Council Chamber. Until that point individuals will continue to gather on the site of the camp as friends and “break bread together” and serve meals. Charges against the sixteen arrested are expected to be dropped and they are expected to be released this evening.

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