Indiana Daily Student

LETTER: Stop the madness. Bloomington’s unhoused population deserves greater protections.

Under Mayor John Hamilton’s administration, Bloomington is opposing and is poised to reject a city council ordinance which would offer some protections to the homeless community.

[Related: Bloomington official: Sheltering unhoused people isn’t part of city’s ‘core service area’]

It has deployed fear-mongering tactics and spread misinformation to try and get the public to oppose this ordinance.

The city touts an emergency winter shelter as a reason this ordinance isn’t needed. But many do not feel safe at the shelters for a number of reasons — such as past traumatic experiences or anxiety surrounding COVID-19. 

There is also the issue that the winter shelter closes next month, and all those staying there will again need somewhere safe to be. Furthermore, the city neglects to take people who continue to camp or sleep in their cars, despite additional shelters, into account.

The mayor and some city council members also claim encampments are unsafe and lack resources. 

It’s far more unsafe for people experiencing homelessness to be without a place to camp and to criminalize sleeping in public spaces. If it was an issue of safety rather than the city’s image, then the administration would not have evicted the encampment at Seminary Park. Look no further than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice that allowing encampments to remain is the safest possible measure.

The mayor’s administration hasn’t been able to offer real alternatives and rather are attempting to abdicate responsibility. 

The majority, including the mayor, have chosen not to engage with the actual homeless population. The ordinance does not say the city would have to maintain any encampments. In cities and states where similar ordinances have passed, the maintenance of these encampments has been done primarily through social service agencies.

What kind of leadership chooses not to deal with constituents just because they are less fortunate? What kind of leadership avoids responsibility for those who are struggling? When did one have to fit a certain profile to be able to sleep in peace and safety?

I implore our city’s leadership to more seriously consider this ordinance and explore other solutions — even if they are temporary.

“You ultimately judge the civility of a society, not by how it treats the rich, the powerful, the protected, and the highly esteemed, but by how it treats the poor, the disfavored, and the disadvantaged,” author and lawyer Bryan Stevenson said.

Stop the madness and pass this ordinance.

Signed,

Trevor Richardson

Bloomington Homeless Coalition organizer

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