Representatives of the Bloomington Police Department, along with social workers, arrived at a homeless camp in Seminary Park just around 10 p.m. Wednesday night to tell a group of campers they were being offered a place to sleep overnight at Wheeler Mission, but they couldn’t stay in the park.
Social workers went from tent to tent politely informing the campers they would need to leave the park by 11 p.m., and that their property would be stored. They were informed they could later get their items back from the city. A Bloomington transit bus was parked nearby on S. College near Kroger to take anybody needing a ride to Wheeler Mission.
A source at the scene, who wished to remain anonymous told The Bloomingtonian that aside from the threat of COVID, which hadn’t yet been a serious problem, there is a concern as temperatures turn much colder this winter, those still living in tents would face catching pneumonia or getting frostbite. “Nobody should live like this,” the source said.
Of the dozen or more in the camp, only one took the offer to stay at Wheeler Mission for the night, and two took an offer to go to the Stride Center. Others loaded up their property into cars, or simply took the items they could carry and walked off into the darkness after declining the offer of shelter for the night.
Mary Jane Hoene, who spoke to The Bloomingtonian Tuesday, expressed frustration at being displaced from the park. Several others who had been camping with Hoene helped her load her property into a car, and they said they would find another place to camp for the night. “We lost,” said Hoene.
An evidence technician from the Bloomington Police Department carefully photographed tents, and groups of items, which were then loaded onto a trailer by BPD officers, and taken to a city storage facility.
“No one wants to tear these people’s stuff up,” said a member of the Bloomington Police Department, who added, “Nobody wants to hurt these people.”
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department can be contacted by those wanting to collect their items at a later time.
The Bloomington Parks board voted 3-1 Tuesday against a policy that would have banned camping in public parks in day time hours without a permit, however, camping overnight is already prohibited.
Many Bloomington community members expressed frustration during the meeting, which took place virtually over Zoom.
Seminary Park closes at 11 p.m. according to an already existing city ordinance.
Many community members who once frequented Peoples Park migrated to Seminary Park after police cleared it out several years ago, and signs were placed along Kirkwood to discourage giving money to panhandlers. An anti-homeless Indiana University student started a petition against the homeless after complaining he had to see people experiencing homelessness in Peoples Park.
A homeless camp was briefly on the sidewalk along Kirkwood, but that was cleared out in the summer of 2017 after a rash of overdoses.
Community members began to react Thursday morning to the dismantling of the camp, and community activist Vauhxx Booker sent the following statement to the Bloomingtonian: