The latest chapter in a disagreement between the city of Frederick and advocates for people experiencing homelessness played out relatively quietly Friday afternoon on the lawn of City Hall.
A group of people angry about the removal of a homeless encampment near Highland Street last week sat on the lawn Friday, made signs and pressed the city to take a more aggressive role in providing services for the homeless.
Several people had pitched tents in the area last weekend, and organizers suggested they would again if the city didn’t develop a more robust system for housing those who need it.
There are a lot of people who aren’t happy with the service they’ve received at the shelter the city uses, and they want a more detailed plan for long-term housing for those experiencing homelessness, said Kristen Lundy of the social justice advocacy group Frederick United.
Ramenta Cottrell, the director of the city’s Division of Housing and Human Services, talked with several of the participants Friday and said the city was trying to work with its partners to identify any gaps in services.
“Being able to hear what they’re saying is important,” she said, adding the city would follow up with a response.
Cottrell added, " ... the City of Frederick is focusing on finding adequate solutions and continuing to offer our services, including helping to house them and other immediate needs such as getting them food.
The city was able to temporarily house some of the people who spent the night on the lawn last Saturday night into Sunday. Officials have also been able to find spots for the majority of people who have needed placement over the past year, she said.
The city and its partners house between 100 and 120 people per night at any given time, said Nick Brown, executive director for the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, one of the city’s main partners in its efforts to fight homelessness.
But there is definitely a pocket of people — probably fewer than 20, Cottrell said — who are much harder to find shelter for because of various circumstances.
Lundy said she expects that people will continue to return to City Hall until their grievances are addressed.
By Friday night, several tents had been pitched on the lawn of City Hall.
Around 8:30 p.m., Lundy said no one from the city had told them whether they would be allowed to stay.
Nkem Wellington, a NAC 11 representative who stopped by the encampment, said situations like this one, while maybe not ideal, encourage people to think about the issue of homelessness and how to help society's most vulnerable.
The city's services are full of people doing good, but any system can always be improved, she said.