SIDNEY—Just beyond the Shelby County Courthouse, nestled under the Court Street Bridge, sits an encampment scattered with trash, blankets, backpacks, syringes and other items.
“It’s a mess,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy James Frye said Tuesday morning, nudging at one of several discarded pop cans littered under the bridge and along the riverbank with his shoe. “It’s a shame that people have to live like this. This isn’t a camping trip that you go on. This is a way of life for them right now.”
The encampment, occupied by homeless people in the Sidney community, was discovered last week when deputies chased a suspect with a felony warrant under the bridge, apprehending him. The eventual push to clean up the encampment came after a fire was reported under the bridge Monday afternoon. In addition to reports of the encampment existance, the sheriff’s office has received reports of homeless people in the city going as far as elderly retirement communities, to try and get a meal, or get warm.
Outside of the Alpha Community Center, which serves breakfast and lunch as part of their soup kitchen meals among other services, there aren’t many resources for the homeless residents of Sidney to utilize.
“We don’t have a homeless shelter, because according to the city, we don’t have a homeless problem,” Frye said. “Obviously … we have a homeless problem.”
Cleaning up the encampment is a first step in attempting to solve the homeless problem in Sidney. Frye said the sheriff’s office had plans to meet later Tuesday to discuss the next steps toward rectifying the issue. Part of that is bringing light to the issue, and making the community aware that there is a homeless population in Sidney.
“We just need to get the community mindful of the situation and the problem that does exist, and we need to come together to try to find a solution for these people that are homeless,” Frye said.
Deputy Nathan McClain, who runs the work program in Shelby County, said the homeless problem in Sidney has been going on for at least two years.
“It doesn’t look as visible as Dayton,” McClain said, when asked what might be part of the reason the problem isn’t well-known or addressed. “They’re not hanging out on the roads, begging for change and stuff like that.”
Chad Cisco, an inmate at the Shelby County Jail, said he has never seen anything like the encampment under the bridge in the 45 years he’s lived in Sidney.
“I knew there was a couple (homeless people),” Cisco said. “I thought maybe two or three, but you go back, and there’s just trails, and that’s what’s scary. This used to be a place where people went fishing.”
Cisco, along with several other inmates, spent the morning cleaning up blankets, plastic containers, trash and discarded syringes from under the bridge in an effort to prevent the situation from turning hazardous. The efforts to clean up under the bridge are twofold — to try and work toward a solution to the homelessness problem in the city, and to prevent used needles and trash from getting into the river.
“It should be manageable. We should have the resources for those people,” Frye said. “That’s the whole reason we’re out here, is to try and make a difference.”
In total, the inmates and sheriff’s office collected 760 pounds of trash from under the bridge Tuesday. Frye hopes after this, the office will be able to remain on top of the issue, and will continue to check under the bridge to prevent trash and waste that poses hazards to the homeless and the community, from accumulating.