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Homeless in South Bend are left with nothing, after city's routine cleaning

SOUTH BEND, Ind.- Left with nothing; that’s how some are describing the city’s routine clean-up under the bridge on Main Street in South Bend.

On Monday, the city had crews working to clean up and essentially clear that area ahead of cold temperatures because of health and safety concerns.

The city says what happened is part of a routine crews do to ensure safety.

John Shafer, the director for Michiana Five for the Homeless, says he has witnessed clean ups before and this particular one was not like the rest.

“They don’t bring the truck out that is the claw, and they don’t bring out the big tractor that scoops everything up, they come out there and they throw all the trash away,” says Shafter. “Then they’re told you can come back.”

Shafer says he did not see any kind of notification about what was to come, “Where this 48 hour notice comes from and how they’re allowed to do that, they are hiding under the fact that this isn’t an eviction it’s a cleaning,” he says. “The city is lying. It was not a routine cleaning whatsoever they evicted the homeless today.”

Suzanna Fritzberg, deputy chief of staff and policy director for the city says calling what happened something other than a clean-up is incorrect.

“What we do in that situation is guided through best legal and social practice which means we post notice and we give verbal notice 48 hours ahead of cleaning.”

As we’ve reported, a number of people live in this space. The question is where will they go now?
Fritzberg could not give specifics on how much space is available for the homeless in St. Joseph County, but she says in a 2016 HUD housing inventory report, 708 individual beds were available the entire year with an additional 55 during weather amnesty.

“So we have a lot of resources, of course that means every individual is different. And everything they need to succeed is different,” she says.

Shafer says still, more has to be done without literally breaking down someone else’s belonging.

“It’s not South Bend’s finest moment. And code enforcement was acting on behalf of the mayor’s office. If you’re going to evict them provide a place for them to go to.”

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