Fire official pleads with city to address homeless camps

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Homeless camps in Vigo County are catching the attention of the Terre Haute Fire Department.

“We are being called as the fire department to illegal burning,” said Norm Loudermilk, Arson Investigator for THFD. “Which is a violation of city ordinance, on some of the adjacent to some of the railroad tracks, to the Heritage trail and other wooded areas like you see behind me along the river.”

In addition to illegal burning, Loudermilk says some wooded areas are littered with food, clothing and other items which create a health hazard.

“It’s pretty unsanitary,” he explained. “I mean there’s no restrooms back there so you know that people are going to restroom where ever they you know choose.”

Also, Loudermilk says camps near businesses present liability.

“Folks that own this property, if individuals were to get hurt in some fashion they may have grounds for a lawsuit,” he said.

He suggests the city designate an are for homeless campers.

“Some land somewhere where they can sign a waiver to eliminate liability on the part of the city,” Loudermilk explained. “Maybe put up a couple Porta Potties on there and let people put up their tents there.”

Chairwoman of Homeless Council Wabash Valley, Danielle Elkins, says there are over 400 homeless people in our community.

“There’s a lot of street outreach going on,” she said. “So people are going out and trying to identify these people, trying to get them connected to services.”

Elkins says many homeless don’t know about the services available to them.

Services like Bethany House, Ryves Hall and Emergency Shelter.

“I think it’s just getting everyone on board. The city, the government all of the above,” she said. “And try to end some of these issues that we’re experiencing with the crime and mental health and addiction. It all goes together with homelessness.”

Both Elkins and Loudermilk agree the city needs to take action.

“I think that there are many different locations where these folks are trying to survive,” said Loudermilk. “And so I think as a community we need to look at trying to help them.”

For those interested in outreach projects hosted by Homeless Council Wabash Valley, the group meets in Ryves Hall the third Tuesday of every month from 11am to 12pm.

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