As the deadline for the removal of campsites nears, below is additional information about the City of Goshen’s efforts in working with local nonprofits to offer help to those in need of shelter.

A policy establishing a procedure for the removal of homeless encampments in Goshen was announced early May with the original removal deadline of May 27— the deadline was moved to June 3 because of the holiday weekend. The policy was drafted by a task force created by Mayor Jeremy Stutsman and composed of City staff, elected officials, nonprofits and neighboring residents and businesses. This policy and process is only possible because there are plenty of shelter beds available if campers will accept the offer for safer and healthier spaces to live.

Since the policy was announced, City staff has personally reached out to the campers at their sites on three separate occasions to inform them of the removal deadline and offer resources that could help them get assistance. They have distributed copies of the policy and letters outlining important information about the process.

Additionally, nonprofit organizations experienced in working with the homeless community have reached out as well through three organized events at the Powerhouse Park on May 16, May 23 and May 30. A number of people from the encampment have already participated and taken advantage of the services offered by the local nonprofits.

“I want to thank the nonprofits who have worked collaboratively with the City to ensure the residents in the encampment have the assistance they need moving forward,” Mayor Stutsman said.

Some questions have arisen about the City’s legal authority to remove campers from public property — and whether the campers have the legal right to continue camping on City property. Goshen City attorneys have researched the City’s rights and powers and recent court decisions, and are confident that the policy is legal, as it attempts to treat all persons with dignity. Within Elkhart County, options for shelter do exist, and those options will remain on the table even past the deadline.

Mayor Stutsman and City staff will continue to work with the Goshen Coalition for the Homeless to find long-term solutions to the issue of homelessness in our community. Allowing the camping in public property has brought unfortunate socially unacceptable consequences such as public intoxication and brawling; it is not a sustainable option for our community.

“This is not about removing residents from our community — I want each and every one who lives in Goshen to be safe and healthy,” Mayor Stutsman said. “We want them to use any and all resources available to get assistance while we work on longer-term solutions that can’t be built or implemented overnight.”