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Aberdeen eyes crackdown on the homeless

Propose fine for living in tents
Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-31 17:51:50-04
They live off the radar and without the security of people with four walls and a roof over their heads.
 
"It's scary, because you don't know from one day to the next who's the next victim," said Stacy Dillmore who makes her home in the woods off of Pulaski Highway.
 
Three months after an arsonist wiped out most of a homeless encampment in Elkton, city leaders just to the south in Aberdeen are prepared to clear out tents with a legal maneuver of their own.
 
"A person may not use or occupy for the purposes of human habitation for more than 24 consecutive hours at the same time---a tent, a temporary structure or a portable structure," said Det. Sgt. C. William Reiber of the Aberdeen Police Department.
 
That's ordinance speak for a new proposal that would ban people from living in tents.
 
If the structure isn't taken down within 24 hours, those living there would first get a warning and subsequently a $50 fine.
 
"The chief of police is firmly set on this in a way to not bring in incarceration and accumulative fines and things like that for people,” explained Reiber, “It does give some teeth to moving people from properties that are camping out for long periods of time."
 
It's a balancing act between property owners' rights and the rights of squatters, but city leaders say they're not declaring war on the homeless.
 
In fact, this morning police officers rescued a transient family that had been feared missing just three days ago.
 
"We had a family that was a family of four with two children that were living in a wooded parcel of land without access to a lot of the amenities most of us take for granted,” said Reiber, “Officers felt compelled to do something and they actually put them in housing on their own."
 
It is a happy ending for one family, while others may face a much more difficult time shifting from the tents they call home to an uncertain future.
 
"It's pretty hard when somebody doesn't have something, and somebody else takes away from them," said Dillmore as she surveyed the area where tents had been burned to the ground.
 
Homeless advocates in Harford County say while rotating churches and emergency funds for motel stays have helped bridge the gap, the challenge is finding permanent housing, but it's difficult to help the homeless if they don't connect with the services.