Goshen creates policy to address homeless encampment issues

The City has developed a policy that establishes a procedure to remove the current homeless encampments in public property, with the help of a task force consisting of elected officials, nonprofit organizations, and neighboring residents and businesses. The policy will be enacted immediately.  (Read the policy here).

The plan calls for establishing a deadline (in this case, the deadline is May 27) by which those camping on public property will have to relocate. City staff will notify homeless individuals of their deadline. Between now and May 27, the City and members of the Goshen Coalition for the Homeless will reach out and work with campers to assess their needs, and assist in finding temporary shelter and other required services unless the person refuses assistance. If their property remains on the site after the deadline, the City will remove personal property and keep it in storage for up to 90 days.

The City has avoided, during extreme weather, moving people out of safety concerns. This winter, the City helped initiate a program to provide temporary shelter in Goshen. However, Mayor Jeremy Stutsman and the Goshen Police Department received numerous complaints over the last month about the presence of tents and campfires, and public intoxication in the areas along the Millrace Canal and other areas of the city. City staff estimates about 50 people are camping along the Millrace and an additional 20 in other public areas. Additionally, camping, campfires and alcohol on city property is not permitted by City ordinance.

While the Goshen Coalition for the Homeless works to find sustainable, long-term solutions to issues that are complex and require a thoughtful and compassionate approach, this policy will focus on the immediate issue of a growing tent community in a public area not designated for camping.

“I want to thank the members of the task force for sharing their time and expertise to help us craft this policy,” Mayor Stutsman said. “The City of Goshen will continue to work with the Goshen Coalition for the Homeless and all others who wish to help find the long-term solutions.”

About the task force: Mayor Jeremy Stutsman created a task force to address concerns over the growing encampments throughout the city. The group is composed of city staff; three City Council members: Julia King, Jim McKee and Brett Weddell, neighboring residents and businesses owners, as well as representatives from Oaklawn, The Window, Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network, the Goshen Chamber of Commerce and NIPSCO.