Seminary Park Update – January 8, 2021; Mayor answers questions during weekly press conference

January 2, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana: Keirsten White, program director of Beacon isolation shelter puts on PPE while waiting to COVID test members of the community in Seminary Park Saturday. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton confirmed that all 23 COVID-19 tests administered to members of the community experiencing homelessness in Seminary Park last Saturday were negative. Workers from Beacon gave the tests.

Hamilton spoke during the weekly COVID-19 Press Conference.

The mayor also answered a question about CDC guidelines on not disturbing homeless camps during the COVID pandemic:

“CDC guidelines do not say anybody sleeping outdoors or any encampment should stay, they say if there are no other options, if there is no place for people to go and an individual determination is made that sometimes can be right, but that’s very different if you’re in Phoenix, Arizona in warm weather versus a cold climate like this and if there are indoor beds they’re far safer for our population,” said Hamilton.

Members of the community experiencing homelessness, and living in the park, have been given until Monday at 11 p.m. to leave the park. Hamilton said there is enough space in local shelters, but didn’t specify the names of the shelters that would accept all the individuals.

The Bloomingtonian has not reached out to every shelter in Bloomington, and does not have the number of people living on the streets to compare against the available beds.

However, in a Facebook post, Beacon director Forrest Gilmore said, “there simply isn’t enough time and enough resources to get everyone into a safer circumstance by January 11th. We once again urge the Mayor to place a temporary moratorium on evictions from the park until the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency. In addition to the CDC guidelines that discourage the break down of encampments, this is actually a Constitutional issue regarding the right to public space when alternatives are not available. The City is risking a lawsuit.”

A group of Bloomington activists have gained over 1200 signatures so far on a petition against the removal of the encampment in Seminary Park:

Here is a link to the mentioned CDC guidelines referenced:

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