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Bloomington homeless camp at downtown park shut down

City removed remaining tents
Seminary Park Tents.PNG
Posted at 5:16 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 17:16:42-05

BLOOMINGTON — A tent camp used by homeless people at Bloomington's Seminary Park is no more.

The city has carried out its plans to remove tents from Seminary Park if the owners didn't do so on their own.

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According to Mary Catherine Carmichael, Director of Public Engagement for the City of Bloomington, a few remaining tents were taken down late Thursday. Here is the city's statement:

At 11 p.m., when the park closes, City staff returned to the park, along with shelter providers offering transportation to safe indoor shelters. At that time, five tents remained in the park, sheltering three people. Two individuals left the park voluntarily and one remained into the night. Staff assisted in the transportation of the tents and personal effects for overnight storage at the Switchyard Park maintenance building at 1601 South Rogers Street where they may be retrieved today from 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. and Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. starting next week. Anyone seeking information about available services including emergency shelter may call 211.

Since early December, the city has been working on ways to help the homeless who have been using the park as a place to live. Those efforts included trying to get the homeless population to use local shelters, rather than sleeping in the park.

"The number of those spending the night in the park or the right-of-way has declined over the last five weeks with that extensive outreach, and enforcement of the rules against overnight camping in city parks and in the right-of-way resumed Thursday, January 14 in order to protect the safety and health of these individuals and the community," said Carmichael.

The homeless issue came to a head on Christmas Eve when a person who had been staying in the park died of exposure. "Sleeping or camping beside a busy road in the public right-of-way also poses serious health and safety risks," said Carmichael. "With available safe, indoor options, the risks of current weather and safety conditions counsel against overnighting in the Seminary Park area."

According to the city, about 20 people were spending the night in the park in mid-December. That number fell to about eight this week as efforts were made to get the homeless population to local shelters, including Wheeler Mission, A Friend's Place, Middle Way House, New Hope for Families, and the Monroe County Safe Recovery Shelter.