South Bend breaks up encampment of homeless individuals

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 6:45 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The week began with a homeless encampment being removed from an alley south of South Bend’s downtown.

Photos taken by our newsgathering partners at the South Bend Tribune show the tail end of the removal of a tent city and its 20 or so residents.

“One woman was pushing a shopping cart with a suitcase, her tent in a trash bag, and a plastic set of drawers,” said South Bend Tribune reporter Jordan Smith. “Basically, the only thing she could think of was what she was going to get for breakfast because while she had applied for a housing voucher those are notoriously slow to get and also can be denied.”

One homeless advocate says it’s something that happens every year after the Weather Amnesty program. The program provides indoor shelter for the homeless, but only during the harsh winter months.

“You know, I understand both sides. Nobody wants to see a lot of tents with homeless people in front of their business, but there’s nowhere else because there’s no designated area where they can go and put a tent. And since we don’t have amnesty, which would be clean, safe, inside sleeping year round once the weather hits, this is what they’re forced to do,” said Debra Applegate with Michiana Five for Homelessness.

The most recent encampment was found in an alley between Michigan and Main streets behind the Center for the Homeless and Our Lady of the Rose.

“And so, when encampments do come together, you know, we want to be sympathetic, and we know there needs to be a place for folks to stay, but at the same time when they become larger and unmanaged, there are a lot of public health and public safety issues that we can’t ignore and have to address,” said Mayor James Mueller, D-South Bend.

While the city now has a Motels for Now program that can accommodate up to 120 residents, there’s now a five-month wait to get in.

Advocates for the homeless continue to call for a year-round weather amnesty program. “They just really have nowhere to go, and you look, and you see there are so many vacant buildings and to not be able to use one of those to give people a dignified safe place to sleep at night, is to me, just ridiculous,” said Debra Applegate.