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Elkhart helping Tent City residents find new homes

Elkhart is working to move homeless residents of Tent City into better housing. // WSBT 22 photo

Squatters in Elkhart will have to find a new home by Thursday.

For the past three months, the city has been working to resolve problems with homeless people living in tents on city property.

It's known as Tent City.

An area near downtown that's raised a number of health and safety concerns.

City officials are working to help them find jobs and a place to live.

More than a dozen people are still believed to be living on the property near Sixth Street and the railroad tracks.

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese has been working with them since June to find homes and jobs so they can move from the site.

The property they're on is owned by the city.

“We are trying to be as humane as possible, providing counseling for them, transportation, job placement,” Neese said. “We don't have as many housing opportunities as we will in probably another month.”

Neese said allowing them to live there presents safety and health concerns.

Neese said since the situation came to light, he has personally gone to the tent city, nine times to talk with those living out there, about those concerns. The most recent occasion was last Saturday when he talked about housing possibilities.

Ron Orich had been living at Tent City for three and a half months.

With Neese's help, he has found shelter and a new job.

“To come out here and to struggle like I have been, it’s just been a wake-up call about life in general, about the right choices to make,” Orich said.

A couple of weeks ago, Bruce Collins also found a job with the city's help. He had lived in the tent city for six months.

“I told myself and the people that were around me it’s time for us to get out of here,” Collins said. “It’s time to do something better for ourselves, and it just so happened that the mayor came through the woods at that time.”

John Shafer, is with the non-profit group, Michiana Five for the Homeless. He has been working with Neese, on the Tent City issue

"Tent City, although it is closing, it really is for a good reason,” Shafer said. “It’s not safe out here. It’s not the best way to live.”

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