‘Nobody Deserves to be Burned Out’: New Details on Homeless Camp Arson

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CLEVELAND – Three people have been charged with a fourth-degree felony after a series of fires at a homeless camp in the Flats. Arson investigators from the Cleveland Fire Department arrested the suspects on Friday night.

24-year-old Izill Sims, 31-year-old Judith Weihrouch and 42-year-old Joseph Corbett appeared in court on Monday. A Cleveland Municipal Court spokesman said bond was set at $5,000 each and the case was bound over to Cuyahoga County. A motive for the arson fires was unclear.

“Nobody deserves that,” said Anita Branan from the Malachi Center that helps the homeless on West 25th Street. “I don’t care where you live – whether you’re living in a tin or living in a mansion – nobody deserves to be burned out and to lose everything they have.”

Volunteers at the Malachi Center spend their days working with those in need and they took it personally when the fires were set at the so-called camp, which is similar to a tent city.

“They do have some belongings and sometimes they have sentimental belongings that mean very, just like you and I have something that means a lot to us,” said Branan.

The camp is located on Riverbed Street which runs along the Cuyahoga River. It’s an old street that was closed to traffic several years ago and has since become a hangout for the homeless community.

“They hope it’s not a hate crime,” said Larry Anderson, who helps coordinate the care at the Malachi Center. “I hope it’s not neither because they don’t bother nobody.”

No one was hurt in the fires but everything was destroyed.

“Devastating,” said Anderson, “[a] tragedy. You know? It didn’t just touch them, it touched the community and plus, a lot of people here and other organizations because we know them.”

All three suspects waived their preliminary hearing. They will have future court dates in Cuyahoga County.

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