Homeless scatter to find shelter after tent city torn down

NOW: Homeless scatter to find shelter after tent city torn down


The tent city behind the now closed winter amnesty building on Tutt Street was torn down Monday. South Bend police say they warned all the homeless people living there on Saturday that they were trespassing on private property and had to move. 

Monday afternoon, a man saying he worked for Dave Matthews, who owns the property, said they were clearing the area out. Now those who were living there are scrambling to find new shelter. Advocates say after multiple temporary solutions they want a permanent fix.

“There are people out here living and dying trying to change their lives and nobody cares,” said Shane Purple, who was homeless for more than 10 years. He just found a job and moved out of his tent about a week ago.

He says he wants to change the narrative around the homeless saying many of those living without a home truly want to turn their lives around. He says what’s needed is consistency.

“Having to bounce around day to day carrying all of our stuff, how can I work a job having to carry my tent and clothes everywhere with me?” asked Purple.

And consistency is not what the homeless living in the tent city near Tutt Street are seeing. The lot was cleared out because those living there are trespassing on private property.

“Now they literally have nowhere to go,” said Purple.

Now many of them are trying to find others willing to let them stay on their property.

Mario Sims, the pastor at Doulos Chapel in South Bend, is allowing three tents on his property. He says it wasn’t a question of whether or not to help.

“As a church, we have to respond to the needs of people,” said Sims.

What he does question is why this is a reoccurring issue. 

“This happens every year. It’s frustrating,” he said. “Every year you say we addressed the homeless problem and then end up finding out you haven’t. Our church and others have to stand in the gap and help these people.”

More than a year ago South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg touted a $1.4 million dollar program to help create a new gateway center to get the homeless off the street and into supportive housing but that still hasn’t happened yet.

Buttigieg was not available for an interview, but his office released a statement promising that “locating a gateway center is a priority for the city,” and encouraging the homeless to “engage with providers to be connected to housing resources.”

Purple says that’s not a solution.

“They’ll tell you that you can get help at the Center for the Homeless, at the Hope Missions, at the life treatment centers, but they’re all full they won’t give you that help,” said Purple.

He said he and many of the homeless would even be willing to pay a nightly fee if it would help to fund a building for them.

“I’ll pull out my wallet and with the last six dollars to my name, that’s to the building,” he said tossing the cash on a nearby table. “To get us off these streets so we can get a job,” he added. “We’re not outside we’re out of the weather we’re doing something with our lives.”

With no building currently available for them, Sims is calling on the religious community to help those forced to relocate.

“My plea is for the churches to do something. It’s our responsibility to do,” said Sims. “If this small church that’s poor can put up three tents, imagine what 600 or 700 churches could do. We could solve this problem.”

One member of the common council said they were under the impression that an extension plan for the amnesty building was being put in place.

The council plans to talk about a more permanent solution during their meeting on Monday night.


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