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City council of Bloomington to consider new legislation protecting homeless encampments in parks



Bloomington, Indiana – A proposed municipal legislation that would provide individuals residing in city park encampments with some protections could get a first reading in front of the city council of Bloomington on Feb. 3.

The proposed new legislation follows a decision by the mayor of Bloomington, John Hamilton, to clear a camp in Seminary Park in early December and again in mid-January.

Four tents were set up on the Walnut Street side of the park on Saturday, Jan. 23, and half a dozen people gathered there.

Highlights of the proposed new legislation include a 15-day city notice period for a homeless person residing in a city park encampment before they can be removed from the park with their belongings.

Another condition of the new legislation is that the city catalogue and store the belongings of a person expelled from a park encampment for at least 60 days. In the draft, the amount of belongings that the city must store is defined as fitting “into one 96-gallon container per displaced person entirely.”

Under the proposed new legislation in its draft form, unless “sufficient available housing” occurs, the city will not be allowed to shut down a park encampment, except in an emergency.

The city will have to partner with service agencies, faith-based groups, street churches, or volunteers under the proposed new legislation, after offering the necessary 15-day notice, to ensure that alternative housing and wraparound services are provided to those in the camp.

At the city council’s noon work season on Friday, Jan. 22, the idea of a Feb. 3 first reading, which may mean enactment at the Feb. 17 meeting of the city council, was floated.

One way the council could approach the proposed ordinance on homeless safety would be to refer the law for closer review to a committee. The meeting of the committee will take place on Feb. 10.

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