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Mayor addresses clean up of area under Main St. bridge

“Right now we need to act as a city and we need to get these people inside,” said John Shafer with Michiana Five for the Homeless.

Just minutes after an announcement was made about a new emergency shelter opening up in South Bend along with 61 new cots to house the homeless for the winter season, a rally began downtown on the same topic. Organizers, friends and even some who have experienced homelessness were there to address recent moves made by the city to clear out the space under the main street bridge.

On Monday, city officials had crews clean up that area under the bridge ahead of cold temperatures due to health and safety concerns.

“I’ve been under that bridge. We need rooms! A lot of people are really sick, you know,” said Harry Yazell, who used to be homeless.

Since then, local shelter organizers and some currently experiencing homelessness have voiced their concerns. During that rally, Mayor Pete stepped in to address why it happened.

“When you have encampments forming that bring people like that together, even though I know there’s a sense for some for safety in numbers, the evidence says it’s more dangerous. We are going to have to consider different engineering options,” said Mayor Pete, Mayor of South Bend.

But also some of those current temporary housing options…

“There’s now a warming center open on Monroe Street in addition to 3 other spaces that opened up for weather amnesty during the winter months,” said Mayor Buttigieg.

According to HUD point-in-time data, Mayor Pete says homelessness numbers, which includes those already in homeless shelters, have gone down.

“It’s come down some, we’re at 468 according to the last Point in Time, which is down by about 25% over the last 10 years,” said Mayor Pete.

He says there is a bigger picture of a plan…

“There are certainly jobs, programs going on. Goodwill for example is one of the most effective,” said Mayor Pete.

But his main concern right now is the health and safety of each person without a home.

“When we talk about the people under the bridge, we’re talking about the people who are most difficult to house. At least one of the individuals I was speaking to last night when I was down at the warming center, addiction is his problem. Their most immediate needs.. they’re a few steps away from where we can talk about something like employment,” said Mayor Pete.

He says he’s also concerned about getting everyone to a better place.

“Indoors and where we can begin to talk about some of the other things that we’re up against whether it’s mental health, substance abuse, or the need for a job or anything else that’s holding them back,” said Mayor Pete.

The Mayor says drug abuse can become a factor when dealing with finding someone a place to stay but right now, you don’t have to be clean to use some of these facilities during weather amnesty. He says the point is to get everyone somewhere warm and safe.

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