INDIANAPOLIS — Bulldozers were sent into an encampment in Indianapolis where people experiencing homelessness stay. The move was part of what city officials say is a cleaning operation on a portion of the White River.
Folks who live on White River Parkway, just north of Morris Street, say the city came through and bulldozed the first 20 feet of this encampment where some people have lived for years. Those who live at the camp say they were told to leave by the end of the day Tuesday.
The city says it has to happen because the shelter along with trash buildup and illegal dumping is a threat to the levee that makes up that area — an essential flood protection structure for the city.
A video of the bulldozing was captured by Bill Levin (watch in the video player above), where you can see a man darting in underneath some heavy equipment to try and grab something out.
"Grabbing the last few things out before the city destroys everything," the man said. "Had to hurry up and get all my stuff. If not it would have been thrown away."
Luke Walker was there when it happened.
"I ain't been here long, but for people that have been here for years, this is there home," Walker said.
Walker recently lost his home and has health issues that make full time work tough. He is walking with city organizers to get himself into new housing soon and says he understands why the city had to do some of the cleanups.
"Just like it's your house; you're gonna clean your yard, you're gonna take care of your trash, you ain't gonna leave it just sitting," Walker said. However, he says they could've done the clean up in a better manner than they did Tuesday.
"They could have went about it another way," he said. "We could have helped clean it up."
A city spokeswoman says people living there were given two weeks notice that the day was coming and offered services such as storage for belongings and shelter options.
"The bottom line is you're another human being who's living outside," Levin said.
Levin says one gentleman has lived there for seven years and that leaving would cause severe him severe anxiety. The man has a garden and shelter, and there is concern he'll be forced to leave.
City officials have yet to answer when or if anyone would be required to leave.
The city has undertaken an initiative to raise four million dollars to sustain permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness. Mayor Joe Hogsett talked about that plan on Wednesday night at a safety walk.
"With the path that we have embarked on as a city, with a housing-first strategy, and permanent supported housing is a long term strategy that I think will pay dividends for people who are chronically homeless," Mayor Hogsett said.
The city also started a program last month that pays people experiencing homelessness about $10 an hour to pick up trash in the downtown area. Participants told RTV6 it's given them a positive outlook for the future.