Bloomington’s City Manager aware of homeless camp at future restaurant site, shelters have limited ability to help

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Wednesday night, WMBD brought forth a story about an empty lot in the Twin Cities that will soon be redeveloped. That’s forcing a community of un-sheltered people to move at a time when local homeless shelters are operating at a reduced capacity.

A group of about 20 homeless people are living in an encampment off of Market Street in West Bloomington. City Manager Tim Gleason said it’s one of many in the city.

Gleason said he expects the development of a Panda Express to go through, with construction on the site starting soon.

“We’re not going to come in there heavy-handed. We know this is a segment of our population in Bloomington that we need to offer resources, and if they’re going to be forced to move, then we’ll try to find them a different place to relocate,” Gleason said.

At this time, Gleason said the group is on private property, but there isn’t much that can be done to remove them unless a formal complaint has been filed.

According to Gleason, the current property owner has not come forward with such a complaint, and the city police and staff regularly check in with the group.

“At the end of the day, if they’re capable of caring for themselves and there’s nothing extra that might appear they might harm themselves, we don’t have much of a say,” Gleason said.

Gleason also said many decline help from services and would prefer to live that way on their own accord.

The Chief Executive Officer of Home Sweet Home Ministries Matt Burgess said many are turned away from shelters due to addictions and mental health concerns, whereas others have an overall distrust in the system.

Burgess said most shelters are also cutting their capacities in half due to COVID-19, and it will take a while before there is a return to normalcy.

“We’ve been gradually adding in more capacity. The longer we’ve gotten into the pandemic, it’s gotten safer and safer, but we’re still at diminished capacity,” Burgess said.

Burgess said shelters provide a more temporary fix and more work needs to be done with permanent re-housing programs.

“Those are the types of things that will not result in an encampment being displaced. Looking for the long-term solutions is what we need to be doing,” Burgess said.

Burgess said the best thing an unsheltered person can do is call the McLean County 2-1-1 and that will put them in touch with the resources that best fit their needs.

He also said HSHM offers temporary shelter, rehousing programs, and food.

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