The Bloomingtonian

Bloomington City Council will consider ordinance to protect unhoused community members Wednesday

January 14, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana: A work crew dressed in PPE removes items belonging to community members experiencing homelessness from along S. College Avenue. The City of Bloomington evicts members of the community who are experiencing homelessness from the right-of-way along S. College, which was not subject to Parks and Recreation rules that tents could be pitched until 11 p.m. Workers from Centerstone arrived around 1:30 p.m., then police, and workers from the city who were dressed in PPE arrived later. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

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:

https://bloomington.in.gov/onboard/meetingFiles/download?meetingFile_id=8345&fbclid=IwAR1Y7nm-Iu87_L0FUDk-owdwKJqtXYVw4N-W6AhBP72WCmjMgQ0I3ho1pdw

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.

December 24, 2020 – Bloomington, Indiana USA: A man was found dead after apparently succumbing to hypothermia near this park bench at Seminary Park Thursday. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
Travis Dugan, 36, poses for a portrait outside Mayor John Hamilton’s home after leading about a dozen supporters there to confront the mayor on Sunday, January 17, 2021. Dugan, who was displaced after authorities recently cleared a homeless camp from Seminary Park, said he wanted the mayor to know what it felt like to be interrupted at home. (Zachary Kaufman/For The Bloomingtonian)
January 14, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana: Daniel who is experiencing homelessness looks out of his tent as members of the Bloomington Police Department enforce an ordinance that prohibits camping in city parks as city workers carted away tents after the park closed at 11 p.m. Daniel said he winter clothes were in another tent that had already been carried to a trailer. Police were not sure where his clothing items would be taken, or how he could get them back. The City of Bloomington earlier evicted members of the community who are experiencing homelessness and had pitched tents on the right-of-way along S. College, which was not subject to Parks and Recreation rules that tents could be pitched until 11 p.m. A group of Bloomington community members confronted the police in Seminary Park Thursday night. Another homeless camp on the south side of Bloomington was also allegedly raided by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
December 9, 2020; Bloomington, Indiana: Mary Jane Hoene tries to figure out where she will go for the night after the BPD and social workers arrived in the park to tell campers they can go to Wheeler Mission, but can’t stay in the park overnight. Some others helped Hoene load her property into a vehicle so they could find another place to camp. Bloomington Police Department resource officers and social workers arrived at the park around 10 p.m. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

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