Des Moines evicting homeless from downtown camps

DES MOINES – Des Moines is evicting homeless people from three makeshift camps near the city’s downtown amid a stretch of bitterly cold temperatures, but it’s unclear whether the people will find space in crowded shelters.

City zoning administrator SueAnn Donovan told The Des Moines Register the city wants the homeless to move indoors to escape the winter weather.

“The emphasis is on making everyone safe,” Donovan said. “It’s a complicated issue. We’re doing our best to deal with it in a humane and proactive way.”

The camps are under bridges and along the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers.

Ken Dohmen, operations manager at Central Iowa Shelter and Services, said it will be tough to persuade homeless people to leave their camps for already overcrowded shelters.

“I think (the city’s) intentions are good … but everyone I’ve talked to is just going to move to a different spot, so it’s not going to really solve the problem,” he said.

The 10-day eviction notices were posted Jan. 17. Campers must either leave or file an appeal by Sunday.

Workers from homeless shelters will go to camps next week to offer help and ask people to move elsewhere. It’s against the law to camp on public property, but the city doesn’t plan to make arrests, Donovan said.

Dohmen said it can be hard to find a bed in a shelter.

The Central Iowa Shelter allows people who are intoxicated to get a bed, but it’s full and some people who want to stay there must sleep on a chair. Other shelters in Des Moines have more strict rules, and people must reserve beds for long-term recovery programs, Dohmen said.