Deadline approaches for homeless encampment in Goshen to relocate

NOW: Deadline approaches for homeless encampment in Goshen to relocate

GOSHEN, Ind. -- Monday is the deadline for people living at a homeless campsite in Goshen to leave.

The city plans to issue an ordinance violation notice to anyone living at the encampment along the Millrace Trail on Monday.

The notice gives campers until Wednesday to leave before the city removes them and their property. It says the campsite is illegally located and violates city code. The notice also offers some shelter resources.

In May, the City of Goshen passed a policy that established this procedure after nearby neighbors and businesses complained about the encampment.

The city estimates up to 50 people lived in the encampment at one point. Sunday, ABC57 noticed just three tents.

The City of Goshen and homeless advocate groups say the majority of campers were relocated into temporary shelters and housing or sent to rehab. The city will offer those options and transportation services to any remaining campers on Monday.  

“At all times, we want the city to know these homeless are people first and homeless second,” said Michiana Five for the Homeless Director John Shafer.

Shafer says his organization, and Operation Treehouse, a homeless advocate group based in Goshen, are happy with the situation but want a more long term solution.

“Goshen still needs a low barrier shelter to move forward,” said Shafer. “We don’t want this encampment to happen again. We don’t want it to be relocated somewhere else in the city, so Goshen needs to look into its own shelter.”

The City of Goshen denied ABC57’s request for an interview.

In a press release sent Friday, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said the city was working on a long term solution.

“This is not about removing residents from our community,” said Stutsman. “We want them to use any and all resources available to get assistance while we work on longer-term solutions that can’t be built or implemented overnight.”

“What happens after this city is gone and we have new homeless that come to Goshen and settle somewhere?” asked Shafer. “Are we going to give them the same options for housing? We don’t want to see another tent city, so the city will have an ongoing issue with new homeless.”

An eviction in March left Goshen resident Norma Jean Howard and her daughter without a place to go.

Howard does not live in the tent city, she lives in her car, but she says she is good friends with many of the people living in the encampment. She calls the tent city removals upsetting.

“The homeless have been here for a long time,” said Howard. “My feeling with it is if you had to get rid of tent city because of crime and fights and drinking and alcohol like the city wants to call it, then you need to start cleaning up this whole town. You can’t just pick on one group of people and say well they have to go.”

Norma believes the city is doing an ok job helping people relocate, but she believes homelessness in Goshen could have been addressed years ago. She believes Goshen needs its own shelter.

“The one guy that I know that is getting help, he’s been living in a tent for almost ten years,” said Howard. “That helping hand could have been there a long time ago. Do I appreciate the help? Yes, I do. [But] there should be help available through the years already.”

Some people have questioned if the city can legally remove campers from public property and whether campers have the legal right to camp on city property.

The city says their lawyers researched this and they feel confident this policy is legal.

To view ABC57’s past coverage of this issue, click here.

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