City of South Bend: Homeless encampment violating 'no trespassing' order

SOUTH BEND, Ind. —- According to city officials, residents of a homeless encampment on Tutt Street were notified by police officers they were trespassing. 

Reports surfaced on Sunday that the South Bend Police Department notified occupants of a homeless encampment on Tutt Street they would have to leave the property by 8 a.m. on April 8. However, a city official told ABC 57 News, the group was told there’s a “no trespassing” order at the property.

“Tents is a last result for most of our homeless,” said John Shafer, with Michiana Five for the Homeless. 

The lot is next to the former cutting tools building on Tutt St. The owner David Matthews said he bought the lot six weeks ago and there were already tents on the property. 

When asked how the police came into play, Matthews said he really wasn’t sure.

Matthews also owns the building on Tutt St. that the city and Hope Ministries used for last year’s weather amnesty site. The site closed last Monday and since it closed Matthews said more tents have popped up. 

Click here for more information on the agreement between the City, Hope Ministries, and Matthews for the weather amnesty site.

“There’s some concern that it might become another tent city like we had under the bridge,” Matthew said. 

In 2017, images of city workers clearing a tent city underneath the Main Street bridge drew criticism from the public. Matthews said because the lot is zoned as light industrial it prohibits people from living on it. 

He said he could be fined $1,000 a day if the group stays. 

“Our hands are tied without changing the zoning and without trying to figure out how to run a campsite or something which I don’t think is a good idea and would take many months,” he said. 

Shafer said there’s anywhere from 12 to 15 people at the encampment. He said the site raises safety and health concerns, but that it’s time the City stop bullying the homeless. 

“It’s time we stop harassing them,” Shafer said. “We want to see our homeless housed and that they have a place where they are safe at night not out on our streets.”

The City sent the following statement to ABC 57 News:

“Locating a gateway center is a priority for the City, and we continue to engage with local partners in that effort. We encourage anyone experiencing homelessness to engage with providers to be connected to housing resources.”

However, Shafer said many of these people can’t use the resources because most of the shelters are full. He said he wants to see the city create the gateway center and stop talking about it. 

“The homeless are always going to be here,” he said. “It’s time that we give them a place where they can be housed and feel safe.”

For more information on the city’s plan for a gateway center, click here.

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