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Columbus Homeless Advocates Protest Closure Of Heer Park

Heer Park on Columbus' South Side was temporarily closed by the Department of Recreation and Parks.
Alisha Silverstone
Heer Park on Columbus' South Side was temporarily closed by the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Advocates for the homeless are concerned after the city of Columbus closed Heer Parkon the South Side over the weekend.

Sophia Fifner with the Columbus Department Recreation and Parks says they received reports of vandalism, ATV rallies and an increase in drug usage.

“We made the difficult decision to temporarily close the park, so we could remove some of the playground equipment and make sure the area is safe for kids to play," Fifner said.

That's raised flags for people who advocate for those without homes, who gathered Friday at the park to protest the closure. Fifner insists the closure is about the vandalism alone, though.

"Our interest in closing the park is exclusively for the individuals who are coming into the park and vandalizing the park," Fifner says. "It is not to remove or displace any of our homeless residents."

Still, Patrick Cash, who lives in a tent nearby, is worried.

“People come from various churches and organizations and feed us and stuff," he says. "They’ve been coming here for years and now I don’t know what we’re going to do. I count on those meals and things that they give us."

Fifner says they will not stop local groups from distributing resources.

"We realize there are individuals, including our own Department of Neighborhoods, that work really closely with the homeless individuals and residents who live in and around the area," Fifner says. "We want to make sure that folks can, if they need to, still provide services to those residents."

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.