ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The company that runs the Civic Center Garage in downtown Rochester said it will be locking doors for pedestrians and vehicles at 8 p.m., shutting out homeless people who spend the night there.
Wednesday night, the doors were closed on about 10 protesters, some of whom are homeless.
The protest, led by House of Mercy's Sister Grace Miller, called on Monroe County leaders to keep the garage open for the downtown homeless population, for now.
Earlier, about 30 people protested outside the garage's entrance on Fitzhugh Street South .
"What they're doing is wrong, there's nothing right about it," said Miller, House of Mercy. "All we're asking for is time, and they can give us the time. What's the difference between August, September, October?"
Rick Goldstein of Mapco Auto Parks, which owns the garage, said Sister Grace asked that the homeless be allowed to stay until June. It's now the end of August, and Goldstein said a new winter policy will save on heating costs.
The homeless, and those who advocate for them, believe locking the garage will place people in vulnerable situations.
"They're going to spill out on the streets and they're going to be in harm's way," said Ken Davis, who is homeless. "They're in danger, they're feeble people, they can't take care of themselves obviously and they're going to get hurt."
Miller said she'd like to purchase the former Huther-Doyle building at the corner of North Clinton Avenue and Cumberland Street, near the Inner Loop, for a homeless shelter. Miller said it is the most strategic location for downtown's homeless and needs very little work.
Miller wants the county to pay for and staff the facility, which she said will need a change in zoning requirements from the city. Miller and Monroe County Human Services Commissioner Kelly Reed plan to meet after Labor Day.
Reed said her department has been monitoring closely the 30 or so people who call the garage home. Reed said since October 2013, 33 percent of those homeless people have been placed in other facilities.
"You generally don't come to be a homeless person residing in the garage unless you have a lot of complicating factors like persistent mental illness, persistent mental illness with drug and alcohol use attached to it, just drug and alcohol use, something that causes you to be sanctioned or otherwise not able to be in a general homeless shelter, or sanctions or something like that, so it's a population that's difficult to place," Reed said.
Miller is also looking to expand the House of Mercy on Hudson Avenue to accommodate more of the homeless, but she said that's not an alternative for those downtown.
Miller said many who have lived in the Civic Center Garage have moved on to an encampment along Interstate 490, near the intersection of Meigs Street and Broadway.