BLOOMINGTON — At Seminary Park in Bloomington, people experiencing homelessness living in tents have until Monday to vacate. A new sign was posted at the park, reminding people it’s illegal to stay overnight.
This is after a 51-year-old homeless man was found dead in the park on Christmas Eve after sleeping there overnight.
“That man had spent the night before in a shelter trying to get sober and not relapse,” said Marc Teller, Bloomington Homeless Coalition board member. “That man was kicked out and was dead the next day on the streets of Bloomington.”
Teller says people experiencing homelessness have stayed at Seminary Park for a few years now. They settled on the location because it was safe, centralized and adjacent to services they need.
The sign says tents and personal belongings left at the park will be removed and stored for 30 days. It lists phone numbers and addresses of local social-service agencies that provide free lodging.
The city says this is not a new rule. It’s been on the books for years, but has not been enforced for the last few weeks in order to give folks staying in the park time to identify safer options listed on the signs.
“They said that, but they’ve never enforced it until now, at least not in Seminary Park, during the middle of COVID and in the middle of winter,” said Teller. “So while we do acknowledge that that’s on the books, we also knowledge that the city could change that very easily.”
The city of Indianapolis is currently doing something similar, giving people downtown sleeping at Monument Circle until next Tuesday to clear their personal items from the area.
The Bloomington Homeless Coalition says they’ve been working around the clock to bring people relief supplies. They started a petition to ask the mayor to stop evicting people from the park, and instead, provide the encampment with a permit for the duration of the pandemic.
“The only problem is that it is visible. Homelessness exists everywhere, especially in the United States, and unfortunately it looks like it might be getting worse here soon,” said Teller. “All they’re trying to do is push them into literally the woods so that people can’t see them. They say that they want these people in shelters. Again, that’s very short term and there’s not enough beds in this town for everyone. So that’s not a solution. Where else?”
The city says they’ve been working closely with shelters and other service providers to develop short- and long-term solutions for those experiencing homelessness.
The City and Monroe County government have funded a Winter Contingency Shelter for Women that opened in December and is operated by Wheeler Mission.
Earlier last year, the City also opened the “Monroe County Safe Recovery Site,” which offers an isolation shelter for those with COVID symptoms or have received a positive COVID test result. The shelter has served over 150 guests since opening in the spring.
To get involved with the Bloomington Homeless Coalition, you can visit their Facebook page: