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Friday, April 19
The Indiana Daily Student

city bloomington

City to clear and move unhoused encampment behind Wheeler Mission Thursday

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The city will clear and move an unhoused encampment located behind Wheeler Mission Thursday morning Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson said at Wednesday night’s city council meeting. Representatives from the Indiana Recovery Alliance, who help provide services and resources for members of the unhoused community, said they have yet to receive information about where the encampment will be moved. 

“Notice was given during the cold snap that when the weather broke, we would be working to move those camps,” Thomson said during the meeting.  

Thomson said she is collaborating with leaders from various faith communities to potentially provide shelter and volunteer resources. She said the shelters currently providing resources and housing — such as Wheeler Mission and the Shalom Community Center — are understaffed and short supplied but certain faith communities could help fill in the gaps. However, she said that volunteers through faith communities may not have the training or skills in de-escalation and security needed to provide permanent, long-term solutions.  

“Our shelter providers don’t have adequate supply right now and the multifaith team, they were very clear that their volunteers don’t have the skills yet to do that either,” Thomson said. “So, we need to approach this with care; there's not an easy solution.” 

The city cleared an unhoused encampment near the intersection of Fairview Street and Patterson Drive on Jan. 4, which displaced up to a dozen people. The city also began enforcing a policy prohibiting tents and other enclosed structures in Bloomington public parks during daytime hours beginning in August 2023.  

Last week, Bloomington police arrested a woman in connection with the death of 52-year-old Curtis Butler, who was shot in a tent in the unhoused encampment behind Wheeler Mission. While Thomson did not directly reference this incident during Wednesday’s meeting, she previously said the city removed the encampment on Fairview Street and Patterson Drive due to “significant safety issues.”  

Trin Piedra, a representative for the Indiana Recovery Alliance, urged the council to allocate more funding to address the needs of the unhoused community and provide long-term solutions. Piedra has been visiting unhoused encampments to provide residents with food, water, hygiene products and other resources for about a year.  

“In order to get there, we can’t ask people who are shivering and starving to pick themselves up,” Piedra said during public comment. “We talk here from the comfort of this warm, nice conference room, clock out and go to our warm environments with our pets, family, friends, loved ones. There's a lot of people who can’t do that.” 

Kyle Halvorson, another representative for the Indiana Recovery Alliance, said during public comment there are currently at least 10 people living in the encampment behind Wheeler Mission who will be displaced. Halvorson said some of these residents have lived at that encampment for more than two years. 

“They’re human beings, they deserve everybody at that table’s cooperation, their time, their energy,” Halvorson said. 

Temperatures in Bloomington dropped to negative 5 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 15. While average temperatures have steadily climbed in the past week, daily low temperatures were consistently below 10 degrees Fahrenheit from Jan. 16-21. Bloomington was also under a winter weather advisory until Jan. 23, with the National Weather Service warning residents of freezing rain, ice accumulations and hazardous travel conditions.  

Halvorson said during public comment he has spoken with four people living in the encampment who are at risk of losing fingers or toes due to frostbite.  

“It’s their home, whether people like it or not,” Halvorson said. “I haven’t seen cooperation of the city, of anyone, to actually help in the process of moving, of relocating, of finding a place for them to go.”  

Halvorson and Piedra said representatives from the Indiana Recovery Alliance will be at the encampment to provide resources and services for unhoused residents around 11:00 a.m. Thursday. 

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