Bloomington human rights commission waits for specific wording before voting to support possible protections for park encampments

At their Monday meeting, Bloomington’s human rights commissioners seemed supportive of a possible new law that would protect homeless encampments in city parks.

Screen shot of the Jan. 25, 2021 Bloomington human rights commission meeting.

The proposed new law comes after a decision by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, to clear a Seminary Park encampment in early December  and again in mid-January.

The proposed new Bloomington law is modeled on an Indianapolis ordinance.

But city human rights commissioners wanted to see the specific wording of Bloomington’s ordinance before voting to support it.

As commissioner Carolyn Calloway-Thomas put it, “I will have to lay eyes on the language that’s constituted now, because there might be some differences stylistically and otherwise, during the translation from Indianapolis to Bloomington.” Calloway-Thomas is a professor African American and African diaspora studies at Indiana University.

The new law, which got some discussion at a city council work session last Friday (Jan. 22) is co-authored by councilmembers Matt Flaherty and Kate Rosenbarger.

City councilmembers did not attend the human rights commission meeting on Monday.

Speaking in support of the proposed new ordinance on Monday was Monroe County county human rights commissioner Vauhxx Booker, who provided the impetus for the new legislation. Continue reading “Bloomington human rights commission waits for specific wording before voting to support possible protections for park encampments”

Bloomington city council to consider new law protecting homeless encampments in parks

Seminary Park from the Walnut Street side, looking northwest on Jan. 23, 2021. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

A new local law that would provide certain protections to people living in city park encampments could get a first reading in front of Bloomington’s city council on Feb. 3.

The proposed new law comes after a decision by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, to clear a Seminary Park encampment in early December and again in mid-January.

On Saturday, Jan. 23, four tents were set up on the Walnut Street side of the park, and a half dozen people were congregated there.

Highlights of the proposed new law include a requirement of 15-day notice by the city to a homeless person living in a city park encampment, before they and their belongings can be removed from the park.

Another requirement of the proposed law is that the city catalog and store for at least 60 days the belongings of a person who is removed from a park encampment. The amount of belongings the city must store is described in the draft as fitting “entirely within one 96-gallon container per displaced person.”

Under the proposed new law in its draft form, the city wouldn’t be able to close down a park encampment unless there is “sufficient available housing”—except in the case of an emergency.

After giving the required 15-day notice, the city would, under the proposed new law, have to work with service providers, faith-based organizations, street ministries, or volunteers ensure that those in the encampment are offered alternative housing and wraparound services.

The possibility of a Feb. 3 first reading, which could mean enactment at the city council’s Feb. 17 meeting, was floated at the city council’s noon work season on Friday, Jan. 22.

Continue reading “Bloomington city council to consider new law protecting homeless encampments in parks”

Enforcement by city, county against encampments in different locations Thursday night: 1 tent remains at Seminary Park

Seminary Park

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During a Thursday night meeting of Bloomington city council’s four-member public safety committee, to hear public comment about the houseless encampment in Seminary Park, Monroe County sheriff’s deputies were patrolling county land further south off Rogers Street.

At Seminary Park, after the committee meeting ended around 9 p.m., word had already spread about two arrests made on the county’s property, which includes 87 acres that front Rogers Street north of Cherokee Drive.

A couple hours later, Seminary Park would see its own, second enforcement action of the day.

[Updated at 12:22 p.m. on Jan. 15. The city of Bloomington issued a statement on the topic. “The City will continue actively collaborating with the entire community and region, including other governmental entities (Monroe County government and township trustees) service providers, those with lived experience, faith communities, and philanthropic agencies, to identify short- and long-term alternatives for our residents experiencing homelessness.”]

The statement includes information about where the people’s belongings had been taken: “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.” The statement also says, “Anyone seeking information about available services including emergency shelter may call 211.”

Monroe County land

This aerial image of the county-owned property off Rogers is from the Monroe County online GIS system.

Continue reading “Enforcement by city, county against encampments in different locations Thursday night: 1 tent remains at Seminary Park”