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Homeless abruptly removed from Mt. Hope encampment say they were caught off-guard

(WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - The homeless people encamped on Spectrum's South Avenue property say they were caught off-guard when the company called police to remove them from the site.

"I was kind of stunned, like, I thought you said we could get out the beginning of the month," said Geno Brown.

Brown has been living on Spectrum's property for two years. He knew his time was limited.

"They said, 'We're going to give you this amount of time to get your stuff out, but we are coming back,'" he said.

That day was today just before 8 a.m. Tuesday.

"They tapped on it [his tent] and said, 'This is Spectrum and the police and we're ready enforce our eviction today,'" Brown said. "Kind of shocking. I didn’t think they were going to do that.”

A representative from Spectrum called police to have the folks living at the site removed. Mercedes Phelan of Metro Justice was arrested for trespassing when she says she came to help support the group.

"It wasn’t a great experience, but I feel like it was the right thing to do," Phelan said. "I did it for the right reasons. It is what it is. If I gotta go back, I’ll go back.”

Advocates from a number of organizations showed up, some bringing food, assisting with housing options and others offering prayers.

“To try and help find out what’s going on and be some kind of support if we can be,” said Randy Biaselli, Sr. of Lamp Community Church.

Last week, Spectrum put up orange fences with no trespassing signs to prevent people from coming and going into the campsite.

“It’s wrong on so many levels," Phelan said. "They’re not bothering anybody.”

“We need to keep in mind that property owners have rights and our police department will respond to trespassing and other calls,” said the City of Rochester's Communications Director, James Smith.

Now, Brown is packing up. He's one of the lucky ones who, hopefully, will move into an apartment on Friday.

Others aren’t so lucky.

“I'm glad about able to leave with some skin," Brown said. "There’s like two people here that I know of up here – it doesn’t look good for them.”

Spectrum says Tuesday's trespassing enforcement follows a six-month effort to find alternative housing. The company said it successfully helped most of them.

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