FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — What began as a protest against construction that forced some of Frederick’s homeless out of their “tent cities” has evolved into a much larger conversation about the city’s respect for its residents struggling with homelessness. Following the initial demonstration last week, some of Frederick’s homeless population returned to the front of City Hall, requesting the city government do more to find permanent and farther-reaching solutions to this problem.
“I’m not really asking for much. These people ask for housing. Why don’t you just leave me alone?” said Richard Thomas Sherry, Jr., one of the people who was displaced from the original “tent city”. He has attended both demonstrations held in front of City Hall.
Activists who stand with the homeless also attended the demonstration, looking to act as a liaison between protestors and the City.
“We’re here pretty much to show support, to mediate — as much as we can — between our homeless constituents and the city,” said Talia Ramey, co-founder of Global Necessity, a grassroots nonprofit that seeks to advocate for homeless people.
Global Necessity also released this statement prior to the start of the demonstration:
After the first protest, Frederick’s mayor Michael O’Connor paid for protesters to stay in a motel for one night. But some felt the short-term solution wasn’t enough. And many demonstrators also took issue with the way they were being treated not only by the city’s government but also by shelters. Particularly by the shelter run by the “Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs” in Frederick.
“I’m here today to represent because I do believe in a shelter, but if you’re gonna sit there and do people wrong, it’s not right. It’s not right,” said Lydia Dooly, a homeless person and one of the demonstrators. Dooly emphasized that the group’s status as homeless didn’t make them bad people or less deserving of decent treatment.
But shelter executives felt the demonstration wasn’t focused on creating change and only served as an outlet for people to vent frustration about their situation.
“I’m more than willing to engage in a dialogue, but it needs to be a two-way communication,” said Nick Brown, executive director of the Religious Coalition. “I’m not interested in bouncing off of insults … we’re working on creating real programs for the people who are hurting the most. We don’t have time for misinformation or untruths.”
Advocates for the homeless were determined to continue the demonstration until they feel the city has taken the issue seriously and presents a plan for how to move forward.
“I want a week,” said Kristen Lundy, founder and president of Frederick United. “I want to know what they’re doing with these individuals for a week. And if they don’t give it to me, we will be out here every day until they do. Until they come up with something.”