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D.C. Homeless Being Pushed Out for Inauguration

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WASHINGTON – Frank Mearns has left the place he calls home, a stone's throw from the White House, and joined thousands of others in Washington who were forced to pull up stakes and move from their regular digs for the presidential inauguration. But Mearns isn't making a quick buck by renting out his pied-a-terre, as some Washington residents are. Nor did he head out of town on an inauguration escape holiday, as some locals did. He's one of Washington's army of homeless cleared from the center of the U.S. capital ahead of the historic inauguration of Barack Obama. "Everyone's got to be out of here and stay out until next Thursday," the 37-year-old said. "Here" is a space on 14th Street and New York Avenue, in the heart of a zone in the center of Washington that will be closed to traffic and policed heavily during the inauguration. "Here" is also home to Mearns and a dozen other homeless people each night. Five of his fellow street dwellers work full-time but can't afford to pay the high rents in the Washington area. Another was displaced from his home in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. And a few women also are in the group. "There's a lady who's been on the streets for 10 years and been raped seven times," Mearns told AFP. "She sleeps next to the guy from Katrina and if he's not here, she sleeps somewhere else. She sleeps here for safety. She doesn't know where she'll go next week." Up to 1,200 people live rough in the security zone, including Pennsylvania Avenue, the grand boulevard which the inaugural parade will march down, said Michael O'Neill of the National Coalition for the Homeless. The effort to clear Washington streets of the district's homeless population was unlike anything that former homeless man David Pirtle has witnessed. "I was on the streets when George W. Bush had his second inauguration in 2005 and it was nothing like this. There were no large-scale sweeps. I slept on Pennsylvania Avenue the night before and the ni