Homeless move back under Main Street bridge

NOW: Homeless move back under Main Street bridge

South Bend - Ind. With warmer weather, panhandlers are appearing under and around the Main Street bridge again.

The city and its partners are working on solutions to address the code violations and homelessness problem.

“The people that are sleeping outside it seems like it’s increased,” Vernard Tillman said.

Tillman walks to work under the bridge every day.

He says he’s seen more homeless people there in the past few weeks than ever before.

“I see them sleeping under the bridge, and then the alley, the next alley over,” Tillman said.

The bridge has been a popular encampment spot for over a year, but last winter, the homeless could stay at a warming shelter which is now closed.

Now blankets, cardboard and other items are back under the train tracks.

The South Bend Mayor’s office says they see it too.

“I think we see it obviously more in the summer when there are more folks around in the street,” Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor,  Suzanna Fritzberg said.

Code Enforcement and South Bend Police have stepped up their presence around the bridge.

“I think they’ve developed a couple changes to the ways they do patrols in that area to deal with panhandling,” Fritzberg said.

A long-term solution is also in the works.

The city has poured thousands of dollars into the FUSE project, a new shelter that is almost finished.

The South Bend Heritage Foundation is a leader in the project.

“It’s coming along. Everything is on schedule on budget, expected to open this fall,” board member Debra Stanley said.

According to the South Bend Heritage Foundation, the building should be operational by November.

FUSE will provide 32 apartment-like units for the homeless, along with services to address why the guests are on the streets to begin with.

“It’s to avert this drain on community resources,” Stanley said.

Tillman says he’s anxious to see how the project turns out, as he watches the homeless problem increase with summer temperatures.

“You could lose your job, you could lose your housing in a heartbeat. So I feel for them, for whatever reason that they’re out here,” Tillman said.

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