Homeless Encampment Cleared by City of Bloomington Officials

“Well, as I was walking, I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing
That side was made for you and me!”

This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie


BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: No Trespassing signs posted. A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: Shaggy and his dog Scooby. A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Staff report

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — January 4, 2023

In a half-hour operation on Thursday, the City of Bloomington cleared a homeless camp situated at the intersection of Patterson and Fairview, a move that drew participation from Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thompson, who took a hands-on approach in the clearance efforts.

The residents of the camp, on the City of Bloomington property, had been given 48 hours to vacate or face arrest. It’s illegal to camp overnight on city property after a law was passed by the city council.

Mayor Thompson, assuming office on January 1, 2024, expressed her surprise at learning late yesterday about the planned eviction of the homeless camp. However, she clarified that the camp’s clearance had been in the works for over a month, initiated during the previous administration’s tenure.

During an early visit by the Bloomingtonian to the camp on Thursday, a resident who identified himself as “Shaggy” spoke candidly about his experiences. He disclosed his preference for the nickname and introduced his dog, named Scooby, as his faithful companion.

Shaggy detailed his path to homelessness, mentioning an eviction from Crawford following an incident involving a flooded apartment. He revealed being unwelcome at Wheeler Mission and other camps and recalled the previous eviction by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office from a larger campsite behind the At Home store on West Third Street last year.

“Shaggy” recounted several near-death encounters while living on the streets, including a recent fire incident in his tent where Scooby’s timely intervention saved his life.

Mayor Thompson, actively involved in the clearance operation, emphasized her commitment to handling the situation with dignity. Following the swift removal of the camp by city workers within approximately 30 minutes, Thompson engaged with Shaggy again and hugged him.

Addressing the broader issue, Mayor Thompson underscored her focus on understanding the needs of those experiencing homelessness, rejecting the practice of delegating such interactions. She cited safety and health concerns, notably the absence of adequate sanitation facilities, as primary reasons for dismantling the camp, and several recent fires at the location.

In charting a way forward, Thompson emphasized a tailored approach for Bloomington, expressing openness to successful strategies from other cities that could be adapted locally. She highlighted plans to collaborate with service providers for a rapid response to address the crisis. Thompson said when she has a plan she’ll share it with her constituents.

Thompson acknowledged the complexities of camp clean-ups, citing the difficulty in finding local contractors willing to undertake such tasks.

City workers, along with personnel from the Bloomington Police Department and various service providers including Positive Link, facilitated the camp’s clearance, assisting the unhoused individuals in organizing their possessions and disposing of waste.

As for Shaggy, uncertainty looms over his next steps. Expressing concerns over full shelters and a ban from Wheeler Mission, he remains uncertain about his future housing.

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: Shaggy and his dog Scooby. A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: Shaggy talks about a fire that engulfed a tent. A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: Notice evicting residents of a homeless camp. A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomas helps clear a homeless camp. A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – JANUARY 4: Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson hugs a man who was being evicted from a homeless camp. A homeless camp is cleared on January 4, 2023 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

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