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Local pastor extends stay for tent encampment, adds new plans

(WNDU)
Published: May. 27, 2020 at 7:50 PM EDT
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It has been more than 24 hours since police and protestors clashed over the removal of a tent encampment near Michigan and Monroe Street in South Bend.

Now, residents are staying on church grounds just blocks away with a new plan.

Mario Sims, the senior pastor at Doulos Chapel church, who agreed to move tent city to his property on Tuesday, says things are going to be a little different for people living in the encampment.

"It's not just a bandage, throw up a tent. What we want to do is take the time to find out what the individual needs are for each person and get that back to being contributing members of society," Sims says.

As long as residents are staying on church grounds, Sims says each person living in a tent will have to sign an "Emergency Tent Encampment Agreement" that must be approved by the church.

In order to keep a seat in the tent encampment, residents cannot have alcohol, drugs, theft, or overnight guests. In addition, residents must pick up their own trash. Anyone who disobeys the rules mentioned in the agreement will be given 24 hours to leave.

Sims says along with the restrictions come some new additions. In the short term, Sims says the church is working on adding mobile restrooms, more sanitation options, food and water, tents, blankets, and clothes.

In the long term, Sims would like to see some new renovations made to the church to be able to accommodate more people who need a place to stay.

He also would like to see services like job training, drug treatment, and mental healthcare come into fruition at his site in order to help residents get back on their feet.

However, Sims says he can't do it alone. He is going to need the help from the community and other local pastors in order for his plan to work.

"We want to be able to put an end to homelessness here. This is not impossible. This is doable. These are human beings. At some point, something failed in their life and what are we trying to do is, one-on-one, figure what it was. Some people don't want to change. The ones who don't want to change, we have to ask them to move along. But the people who wat to change, we're here to walk with them on this journey," Sims says.

Sims says he will be meeting with local pastors on Saturday to discuss both his long term and short term plans are for people living in the tent encampment and struggling with homelessness.

For now, Sims says the church will be accepting donations from anyone willing to contribute.

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