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The Bloomington Board of Park Commissioners voted last week against a policy that would forbid tents and other camping structures in city parks during daytime hours.
For the last several months, public spaces such as Seminary Park have become dwellings for people experiencing homelessness. And as winter temperatures have set in, more tents and camping structures have been built to keep people warm.
The parks update would have changed current policy, which prohibits camping overnight in public parks.
Over 230 community members virtually attended the Park Commissioners meeting, with a majority opposing the change in policy.
The following day, the Bloomington Police Department sent resource officers into Seminary Park to remove tents and other camping structures from the property.
Resource officers were present to help the homeless find shelter for the night.
But advocates and shelter leaders in Bloomington say there aren’t enough beds available to provide a space for every person experiencing homelessness, and removal of camping structures increases risk of COVID-19 spread in the community. They also expressed concern that removing the camp would deepen feelings of disconnection.
COVID-19 cases have been rising in recent months, and organizations such as Wheeler Mission also report serving record numbers of individuals.
This week, we’ll talk about the city’s response to challenges people experiencing homelessness face during the pandemic and how organizations are responding to an increase in demand for resources.
Reporting done by Ethan Burks.
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Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection.
Chris Abert, Indiana Recovery Alliance executive director
John Hamilton, City of Bloomington mayor
Forrest Gilmore, Beacon Inc. executive director
Efrat Feferman, United Way executive director