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BPD Removes Tents And Camping Structures From Seminary Park Wednesday Night

A photo of a tent set up in Bloomington's Seminary Park.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, several tents were set up in Seminary Park on the westside of town before being removed that evening by BPD. (Joey Mendolia, WFIU/WTIU News)

Wednesday night, the Bloomington Police Department sent resource officers into Seminary Park to remove tents and other camping structures from the property.

Under current park rules, overnight camping and sleeping in city parks is prohibited between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Resource officers were there to help assist people experiencing homelessness to find shelter for the night.

But Program Director for the Monroe County Isolation Shelter Kiersten White said there isn’t enough room in local area shelters to safely house Bloomington’s homeless population.

“And I wish that that question had been probed deeper before last night’s actions because there really isn’t anywhere for people to go," White said. "If they can’t stay in a public park, then their only choice is to go onto private property, which is as you know, illegal.”

In a statement from the city, it said only four people took advantage of local shelters last night as one person was housed at the Wheeler Mission, and three other individuals went to the STRIDE Center.

"Both the Parks specialists stationed at Seminary Park as part of the Public Health in Parks partnership and BPD officers report that numerous park users have indicated that they are not generally using parks and park structures as residences or emergency shelters, but rather as social gathering places," the city said. "As such, it is inaccurate to describe the gathering at Seminary Park as an encampment - although some may have slept there without our knowledge."

Camping belongings were taken to the Parks Department’s facilities and will be held there for a week to give people a chance to claim their items.

The city also said that while cleaning up the park, BPD found hundreds of needles and syringes not disposed of safely.

"This year alone 1796 needles have been picked up by Parks maintenance staff with an additional 675 discarded in the sharps container," the city said. "By comparison, 252 needles were collected in 2019."

The timing of the removal of tents comes less than 48 hours after the Board of Park Commissioners struck down a change to Special Use Policy #13040.

READ MORE: Park Board Strikes Down Special Use Policy On Tents In City Parks

"The board voted not to accept a proposed change to the policy which would have prohibited camping upon or otherwise inhabiting any structure or facility of the department at any time without a permit," the city said. "Therefore, tents and other makeshift shelters continue to be permitted in the parks during the day."

Camping belongings were taken to the Parks Department’s facilities and will be held there for a week to give people a chance to claim their items.

Lane Wolf contributed reporting to this story.

This post will be updated. 

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