Homeless Camp Near Downtown South Bend Asked To Disperse, Results In Protest

May 26, 2020

A homeless camp near downtown South Bend was asked to disperse, resulting in protests and police arriving on the scene on May 26th, 2020.
Credit Annacaroline Caruso / WVPE Public Radio

The homeless who are staying in tents near downtown South Bend were given until 10 a.m. Tuesday to disperse. But they didn’t start leaving until late this afternoon resulting in protests and police being called to the scene. 

Protestors tried to stop the removal of the tent city by standing with their hands up in front of a line of police officers. The officers continued to ask people to leave the lot, giving ultimatums including threatening to use pepper spray. It didn’t come to that.

The demonstrators held signs that read “We have nowhere to go,” and “shelters are not accepting anyone.”

The homeless tent city near downtown South Bend was asked to disperse Tuesday, May 26th, 2020.
Credit Annacaroline Caruso / WVPE Public Radio

The City gave notice late last week that the people living in the tents would need to leave Tuesday morning.

Those living in the tents eventually started packing up after a number of tense hours with police.

Tracy Leliaert was one of the protestors trying to protect the camp and says she used to work with the Weather Amnesty program.

“From a safety standpoint, the worst thing they can do is disperse them into the community," she says. "Not only is it a health risk, it’s the wrong thing to do. They have nowhere to go.”

For now those displaced from the tent city are moving to a lot at the Doulos Chapel in South Bend for 24 hours.

South Bend Mayor James Mueller is expected to discuss his idea of a city-run homeless shelter with the Common Council Tuesday night.

Mayor Mueller issued the following statement about Tuesday's events:

“Today’s actions were unfortunate but necessary for the health and safety of our community. The encampment grew rapidly with increased calls for service to SBPD and reports of fights, illegal drug use and other issues. The City provided more than 72 hours to clear the site ahead of this morning’s deadline, and I’m proud of how our men and women in the Department of Code Enforcement and Police Department took on this very difficult task. My administration will continue to work on solutions, both short and long term, to alleviate the complex issue of homelessness in South Bend. I am hopeful our well-intentioned advocates work with us on solutions. The City cannot encourage or turn a blind eye toward unmanaged, large encampments because of the compounding health and safety issues they generate.”

Contact Annacaroline at acaruso@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @AnnacarolineC16

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