BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WXIN) — Starting Aug. 23, homeless encampments in Bloomington’s city parks will no longer be allowed to stay.
The city’s Board of Park Commissioners passed a resolution that bans the use of enclosed tents in parks.
That includes Seminary Park near the city’s downtown. It is ground zero for the city’s homeless population with people openly doing drugs and tents scattered throughout the grounds.
“These camping structures and make-shift enclosures have become a serious public health risk and safety issue due to vandalism, illegal activity, the accumulation of abandoned property and garbage,” Paula McDevitt, Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department administrator, said.
At a special meeting last week, the parks department presented data showing parks with large homeless encampments have had numerous incidents reported. The department also presented data showing nearly two thousand needles have been found in city parks so far this year.
The park commissioners unanimously passed Resolution 23-02 which says in part, “No person shall erect, occupy or otherwise utilize a tent, makeshift enclosed structure or other similar enclosure on any property under the authority of the Bloomington Department of Parks and Recreation.”
“When you see those tents, there’s a worry that goes about you or you look away,” Christopher Emge with The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce said. “We get calls at the chamber from many of our 170 members…that call us with issues with regards to some of the behaviors they see.”
Those who spoke in support of the resolution cited the aesthetic concerns the camps present for businesses and the city as a whole.
“What was done was not a solution,” Bloomington resident Jamie Scholl said. “Really it was pushing it down the road.”
Scholl said the park encampments are an issue, and she’s had safety concerns herself, but banning tents fails to address the real problem.
“It’s not really coming from a point of empathy and understanding,” Scholl said. “Where are these people going to go?”
Scholl said she’d like to see an area established where the encampments can be permanently housed. Until that happens, the city’s homeless residents will have to find somewhere else to live.
“If your value system is one of caring and compassion and kindness, where is that in that action,” Scholl said.
According to the policy, the Bloomington Police Department will be tasked with enforcing the new rule. Nexstar’s WXIN reached out to the department to see how they plan to do that and we’re still waiting to hear back.