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South Bend homeless give their reaction to viaduct eviction

WSBT 22 photo

On Monday, the city of South Bend is still asking people sleeping under a downtown viaduct to move.

It's happening at the Main Street railroad bridge near Bronson.

The city hung signs giving 48-hour notice to remove personal belongings from the area.

A city spokesperson confirmed that code enforcement removed debris.

That includes donated wood pallets that people used to sleep on.

Those are all gone now and city leaders tell me it's a step in trying to get everyone out of this area.

"This where I had my skid between there. The cardboard blocks out a lot of wind," said Joe McDonald.

For McDonald, each night is about making his bed warm on the ground.

“But now it's on the ground. I had to use all my other blankets just to make it decent," said McDonald.

He says he's missing the pallets that were removed Monday morning during what the city says is a routine clean up by South Bend Code Enforcement crews.

Pictures shared with WSBT 22 show items were removed after the city hung 48-hour warnings that all real or personal property would be removed under state public nuisance law.

"We call them our beds even though they're skids and it's wood,” said McDonald. "You took something that someone gave us a blessing to sleep on. So in other words, you don't want to see us comfortable."

Homeless advocate, John Shafer, donated the pallets and says people are now sleeping closer to the ground.

"So we feel that the city definitely took a step backwards today,” said Shafer of the Michiana Five for the Homeless.

“Anytime somebody, whatever their intentions are, take active steps to encourage people to sleep under that bridge, they are making those people worse off,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “The position of the city has always been that people should not be spending the night under a bridge.

Buttigieg says his working group on homelessness is concerned that any encampment is a public heath risk, so they're now stepping up efforts to clear the area.

"There are constitutional limitations on what the city can do when people are in a public right of way. But I would also say the city has not exhausted all of their options and we're reviewing what measures we can take,” said Buttigieg.

The mayor says area groups like Center for the Homeless and Life Treatment Centers have a winter amnesty that begins November 1, so more people can be served.

For Monday night, McDonald will make a bed somewhere else.

"I'mma have to find a wooden spot, or somewhere to hide! From the community,” said McDonald.

The mayor says the new city budget recently passed earmarks $1.5-million for an intake center.

Long-term solutions include a Fuse Center for more permanent supportive housing.

It will add 30 beds in the future.

More beds will open December 1 at the Amnesty Center, a city backed short-term initiative near Hope Ministry.

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