Georgia St. tables, chairs moved - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Georgia St. tables, chairs moved

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INDIANAPOLIS -

Most downtown visitors look away, ignore and try to avoid homeless people like Ron Lofton.

Ron, sitting at a table on Georgia Street, was asked whether or not he was bothered by people who really didn't want him there. After a long pause, he replied,"No, I'm not bothered."

Businesses and city leaders, though, are plenty bothered. Increasing numbers of homeless men and women on Georgia Street are occupying tables and chairs for hours, some camping out overnight.

Without warning Thursday afternoon, all of the furniture disappeared from outside the convention center. It's now blocks away at the opposite end of Georgia Street.

Indy Downtown Inc. runs and promotes Georgia Street, a promenade with wide walkways and trees intended to attract special events, people and money to downtown. Indy Downtown says furniture was moved so everyone has the chance to use it and so it isn't monopolized by one group or person.

Businesses say workers and customers are being harassed. There's a fear of drugs, alcohol and violence. A stabbing this week put a homeless man in jail. Even Ron Lofton admits, "half the people out here aren't taking their medicine. That makes them violent."

They come to Georgia St. for the food handed out by St. John's Catholic Church. Critics call it a good deed with unintentional consequences.

"For thousands of years, the history of our church is to help the poor. It's our gospel," said Fr. Rick Nagle.

The city is facing a dilemma, trying to find a solution that doesn't trample anyone's rights.

"if you or I went to sit down there for four hours, it's completely legal, so how do we approach it? It has to be very thoughtful and very sensitive and offer respect to everybody," said Julia Watson, Indy Downtown Inc.

But now without a place to sit, everybody on one block of Georgia Street will have to bring their own chair.

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