Homeless Find Housing Elsewhere As Vigo County Park Closes

Park officials say many of the homeless people had already left because of tighter restrictions implemented earlier this year.

  Many homeless people in Terre Haute would prefer to camp in Hawthorn park than sleep in the shelters available.

Photo: Courtesy of Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department

Many homeless people in Terre Haute would prefer to camp in Hawthorn park than sleep in the shelters available.

Homeless people living in makeshift residences at a recreational park outside Terre Haute are being forced to find other places to live after the park’s camping season ended on Tuesday.

Restrictions the park implemented earlier this year have encouraged some people to find more permanent residences.

This summer wasn’t the first time homeless people have camped in Hawthorn Park.

But Vigo County Parks Department Superintendent Kara Kish says many of the campers this year were unusually disruptive – drinking on campgrounds and vandalizing property.

“We heightened up our security and took a little bit stronger enforcement to enforce our park policies and things did quiet down,” she says

Muriel Ryan is the founder of Families By Choice, a nonprofit group that helps homeless people in Terre Haute.

She says many of the people who left the park have found other housing—at least for now.

“ Some of them went further South others, as I said had accumulated enough money so they could rent property during the winter, but they know they are going to be running out of money in the spring and face and eviction, they anticipate that they’ll be back there, back in the park,” she says.

Winter shelters in Terre Haute haven’t seen any immediate influx of people seeking shelters, but they expect demand will rise as the weather gets colder.

Terre Haute Parks Department officials say they haven’t decided on any new policies for next year. But they are considering reducing how long campers can stay in hopes it would reduce the number of homeless people using the park as summer residence each year.

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