Residents Of A Homeless Encampment Return To Saratoga Street Following Saturday’s Contentious Altercation With Baltimore Police

Tents return to the area under the Jones Falls Expressway after a dispute between Baltimore Police and residents of a homeless encampment in the area. Screenshot via @BaltimoreBrew on Twitter.

What’s happening?

An encounter on Saturday between Baltimore Police and residents of an encampment for individuals experiencing homelessness turned contentious after officers attempted to clear the area for the Baltimore Farmer’s Market, Fern Shen reports for the Baltimore Brew. 

Several tents have since returned to the area along East Saratoga Street and under the Jones Falls Expressway, despite the intense altercation, which escalated when police tased one resident, Alonzo Coley, after he poured what seemed like gas around his tent, lit a lighter, and ran from approaching officers. 

What sparked the dispute between the police and the encampment? 

The city told the encampment on Thursday that they would have to relocate by the following day. Residents responded on Friday by blocking traffic with barricades, and though officials said they reached an agreement to move to an empty parking lot across the street, some decided to remain in the area. 

“They don’t want to feel like they’re being cycled around from one temporary set-up to another every time there’s some event,” said Jason Rodriguez, deputy executive director of the nonprofit People Empowered by the Struggle.

Saturday night’s events follow an August protest in front of City Hall. Many individuals experiencing homelessness attending the protest were promised social services, but some told the Baltimore Brew that they encountered issues with their shelter placements that landed them back in encampments. 

Anything else I should know? 

Baltimore City is currently home to about 10 encampments for people experiencing homelessness, and many are still in need of assistance, despite $90 million in covid-19 relief funds that Mayor Brandon Scott pledged to finance housing and resource programs, said founder of Belvedere Real Care Providers Network and advocate, Christina Flowers. Flowers will meet with Scott on Nov. 2 to discuss the housing required to ease the homeless population in the city. 

In response to the altercation, Scott’s spokeswoman, Monica Lewis, wrote in a statement, “To be clear, [the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services] worked with this group for days to no avail. As a last resort, the city enacted a public safety response because the group repeatedly refused services and specialized shelter set up just for them and were becoming hostile towards city employees.”

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