Houseless advocates march from Seminary Park to People’s Park to protest clearance from public spaces

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The clearance of an encampment at Bloomington’s Seminary Park in early December and again last week prompted on Monday the second protest in as many nights.

Protesters want the Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, to allow encampments of houseless people to persist in public parks. They point to Centers for Disease Control guidelines that call for allowing encampments to stay in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, if other individual housing options are not available.

Whether such options are available is a disputed point.

Monday’s action included as many as 80 people at its peak, which retraced the steps of around a dozen people the night before, from Seminary Park to Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s house. He lives in the Elm Heights neighborhood, south of the Indiana University campus, about a three-quarter mile walk from Seminary Park.

On Monday, the group continued from the mayor’s house to People’s Park on Kirkwood Avenue, where a teach-in was held, featuring speakers from Indiana University’s Rainbow Coalition, a relatively new coalition of multicultural groups on campus.

The night wrapped up around 11:30 p.m. as two houseless men pitched a tent at People’s Park, and protesters lined the sidewalk to form a wall against possible police action.

Protesters left soon after that, and as of 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the tent was still there. Another second, larger one had been added. Continue reading “Houseless advocates march from Seminary Park to People’s Park to protest clearance from public spaces”

Public right-of-way near Bloomington’s Seminary Park cleared, encampment moves into park for now

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Around 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Bloomington police department (BPD) officers told the houseless people living in the encampment near Seminary Park, south of downtown Bloomington, that they could not occupy the public right-of-way.

Helped by a couple dozen grassroots volunteers and nonprofit caseworkers from Wheeler Mission and Centerstone, several campers moved down the hill into the park itself.

The right-of-way is an area that can be enforced around the clock. The park closes at 11 p.m. That means the move several yards down the hill might have bought the campers 8–9 hours of extra time.

Bloomington’s director of public engagement, Mary Catherine Carmichael responded to a Square Beacon question about the park clearance by saying the city wanted the campers to “finish the transition to safer shelter options.” Continue reading “Public right-of-way near Bloomington’s Seminary Park cleared, encampment moves into park for now”

Bloomington looks to nonprofits to help place Seminary Park area campers elsewhere by Jan. 11

Just south of the historical marker placed at Seminary Park, near College Avenue, a campsite persists this week.

That’s after people and their belongings were removed from the park two weeks ago by a combination of Bloomington police officers, the department’s social worker, and other nonprofit street outreach staff who work with those experiencing homelessness.

The Wednesday night removal two weeks ago was based on a violation of park rules, which prohibit overnight camping.

The dozen tents now pitched near the park look like they’re at least partly in the public right-of-way, based on the parcel boundaries from Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

Camping in the public right-of-way is also not something the city has to allow.

On Jan. 11, the city won’t be allowing it any longer, according to Bloomington’s director of public engagement, Mary Catherine Carmichael.

Carmichael told The Square Beacon, “We’ve asked funders and providers to transition folks overnighting in the Seminary Park area to alternative shelter/housing or camping by Jan. 11.” She added that the city of Bloomington will continue its efforts to point park area campers to other resources.

Carmichael added that an initial deadline of Jan. 8 had been set, but after more discussion, was shifted to three days later.

The roughly three weeks that remain before the next potential removal action by the city of Bloomington will give the city and local organizations some time to sort out possible alternatives.

[Updated Dec. 24, 2020 at 5:24 p.m. Bloomington’s police department issued a press release late Thursday afternoon announcing the death of one of the Seminary Park campers. The news release states: “There were no signs of foul play or injuries to the man.”] Continue reading “Bloomington looks to nonprofits to help place Seminary Park area campers elsewhere by Jan. 11”

Bloomington’s Seminary Park action spurs “Hands off Homeless” rally, call for funding of grassroots efforts

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On Friday evening, about 200 people gathered on the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse square to respond to the city of Bloomington’s action on Wednesday night, to remove a group of a dozen and half tents and people from Seminary Park.

One demand that was read aloud by Marc Teller, who’s with the Bloomington Homeless Coalition, is to set up a place for the unhoused to camp that is more centrally located with better access to services.

Another demand read aloud by Teller is for the government money that was allocated to Wheeler Mission—to re-open the women’s shelter, which had closed over the summer—to be transferred to Hotels for Homeless. Teller reported that on Wednesday night, 17 Seminary Park campers had been taken in by Hotels for Homeless.

Advocate for the homeless Janna Arthur, who was a write-in candidate for Monroe County council this year, said, “No one was left behind—because of Hotels of Homeless.”

The grassroots organization, founded over the summer, has become eligible for city of Bloomington social services funding (Jack Hopkins) through fiscal sponsorship by New Leaf-New Life.

At Friday’s rally, local activist Vauhxx Booker used his time addressing the crowd to encourage people to donate directly to the group through its PayPal link. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Seminary Park action spurs “Hands off Homeless” rally, call for funding of grassroots efforts”

Bloomington parks board votes 1–3 on policy change: Daytime camping still allowed

A proposed policy change that would have prohibited camping or otherwise inhabiting Bloomington’s parks at any time, not just overnight, got just one vote of support at Tuesday’s meeting of the board of park commissioners.

Dissenting on the vote was Les Coyne, who was congratulated at the start of the meeting on concluding his 44 years of service as a park commissioner.

The other three commissioners voted against the change to policy, despite a press release issued by the mayor’s office a couple of hours before the meeting started, in support of the policy change.

The press release said, “The recommendation to amend the special use permit policy is being made in response to an increasing presence of tents and other makeshift structures in several city park properties overnight.” Continue reading “Bloomington parks board votes 1–3 on policy change: Daytime camping still allowed”