• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

INDOT closes homeless camp along I-65

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Feb 16, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — An IMPD officer told me to watch out for used syringes on the floor of a homeless encampment cleared by the Indiana Department of Transportation on its right-of-way along the on-ramp from Raymond Street to I-65 southbound today.

Dozens of homeless people were told on Tuesday that at 9 a.m. their camp would no longer exist.

“A total of 43 people lived here in tents,” said Brother Coleman of Refuge Place. “We would provide meals in the evening and bring provisions to keep them warm.”

INDOT spokeswoman Mallory Duncan said such encampments along highways and under bridges pose a danger to state employees as well as campers.

“It is especially when they are on our right of way and for security reasons we have to carry out maintenance operations on all of our infrastructures. At this point, the camp was impinging on our maintenance team’s ability to do that,” she said. “When we can’t get under our infrastructure and we can’t clear the snow and try to push the snow somewhere else, then that’s a safety hazard to anyone who’s nearby.”

IMPD said it was aware of the overdoses and drug activity at the site. Even residents who scavenged for their material possessions while other items were tossed in a dumpster admitted the camp was a hazard.

“There were people screaming at all hours of the night. I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping here,” said Richard Bray, who recently put out a fire in another man’s tent. “It needs to be cleaned up. It needs to be fixed and it’s just going to move people from one place to another and they need help.

Horizon House has partnered with IMPD, State Police and INDOT to provide emergency shelter for displaced residents.

“It’s dangerous,” said Johnnie Brown, who intended to salvage what few possessions she had, including a camp toilet seat. “It’s disgusting. I can’t even ask my son to come and visit me for five minutes because there are uncapped needles or someone shoots himself.

Brown said “bad decisions” about men and housing have led her to live on the outside for the past four months, and her dearest dream is to find a job and afford an apartment where she could find her children.

A neighbor on East Tabor Street who claimed a man from the camp had recently tried to enter his home told me he was glad to see the camp cleared.

“They looked at us. “You evil people, get out of our neighborhood! Brown said neighbors often yelled at homeless residents at the end of their street. “We’re not all bad guys. We are not all drug addicts. Some people have no choice but to go through what they are going through.