A proposal would add a new chapter to Bloomington Municipal Code to protect community members experiencing homelessness, according to a memo in the packet for Wednesday night’s Bloomington City Council meeting.
The ordinance was sponsored by Councilmember Matt Flaherty, Councilmember Kate Rosenbarger, and Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith. Unhoused members of the Bloomington community were cleared from Seminary Park on several occasions in the past several months.
Just this week, according to the Bloomington Police in Monday’s press briefing, a man who is unhoused, was arrested after he was found sleeping on the private property of the Seminary Kroger, and refusing to leave. Police have been regularly patrolling nearby Seminary Park, where camping overnight is against the law.
Several members of the community told The Bloomingtonian stories about being woken up in the middle of the night and having to move because they were sleeping on private property. One former park resident who goes by “Sarge,” said he survived one night by sleeping inside a plastic bag in a garbage can. Sarge had other close calls with garbage trucks in the past while sleeping in or near dumpsters.
The memo begins on page 94 of the packet at this link:
Section (g) of the proposal reads depending on conditions such as available housing for unhoused community members and procedures detailed in the ordinance:
“The city may designate certain limited areas on public property where camps are allowed, and the requirements of BMC 2.87 shall apply only in those areas, provided that the designated areas are within one (1) mile of an organization that provides prepared meals at least five (5) days per week for people experiencing homelessness, allow adequate space for persons experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and include access to restrooms.”
According to the memo, outreach workers counted 334 people in Monroe County who were homeless in January 2020, before the COVID pandemic. Around 1000 people are experiencing homelessness during the course of the year in the county. Recently, as many as 39 individuals were sleeping in or near Seminary Park, and 20-25 more were sleeping in camps on other parts of the city.
The document quotes the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”
An unhoused member of the community died on a sidewalk next to the park in December. His official cause of death has not been released by the coroner’s office, however, residents at the park said the man was sleeping on the sidewalk without a tent after being soaked by a rainstorm when temperatures then dropped below freezing. Park residents said the man froze to death.