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City posts eviction notice on longtime homeless camp near White River

The city said the camp poses a safety risk, but an advocate for those experiencing homelessness fears they'll have nowhere to turn.

INDIANAPOLIS — Marie Dugan couldn't believe her eyes when she saw an eviction notice from the city posted at a homeless camp located along the west bank of the White River.

"I was angry. I'm just going... to be honest, I was angry," said Dugan.

The camp has been at that location for about 20 years. Dugan and volunteers with her nonprofit organization Hearts for the Homeless feed the people living there every Saturday.

"We have veterans, we have drug addicts, a lot of people with disabilities," said Dugan.

The notice said the camp is a public safety risk, that debris and fires could pose a risk to drivers and the bridge structure, and camping on the city's river and stream levee system isn't allowed.

"None of the reasons on there, except for the trash, are legitimate. They are not burning under the bridge. The fire is over here, if they even start them," said Dugan. 

The looming eviction is making many of the campers feel defeated and worried about their future.

 "One guy last week, he said, 'I'm done. I'm done. I can't keep fighting this.' He wants to die," said Dugan.

Credit: WTHR

Dugan said as rents climb - and landlords take advantage of the market and sell off rental properties - more people are moving into the camp.

"People losing their jobs and their homes because the owners are selling them because of the housing market right now. Renters are becoming a lot more common out here," said Dugan. 

A city spokesperson told 13News the closure date has been moved to June to help identify shelter solutions.

The full statement reads:

"Camping on Indianapolis’s river and stream levee system is prohibited by City-County Ordinance as camps and foot traffic can affect drainage, maintenance, and sediment control in these areas. The Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS) is committed to connecting individuals residing on this site to shelter and housing solutions, and the site’s closure date will be postponed until June to help identify safe shelter solutions for all involved. Our priority remains the safety and humanity of our homeless neighbors."

The ordinance prohibiting camping on river and stream levee systems can be found here.

But Dugan said many of those living at the camp will end up right back on the street.

"It seems like there is no heart. There's no thought that these are human beings and I could easily be that person," she said.

Until real solutions are found, she said they'll just move on.

"I guess I'll go to the next spot until they make me leave that one. That's what they all say," Dugan said.

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