Houseless advocates knock on mayor’s door as prelude to Monday’s events

A little after 9 p.m. on Sunday night, Travis Dugan, a man experiencing homelessness, knocked on Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s door. Hamilton lives in the Elm Heights neighborhood south of the Indiana University campus.

A meeting between the two, with more advanced planning, might be taking place sometime in the near future.

Dugan had been staying at the Seminary Park encampment, which the mayor had ordered cleared in early December and again last week.

The Sunday encounter at the mayor’s house came on the same day when Beacon, Inc. announced that a new temporary low-barrier shelter with 49 more beds will be opening on Tuesday.

On Sunday night, Dugan made his way on foot from the Seminary Park area to the mayor’s front door. With him were around a dozen others, who are affiliated with Bloomington Homeless Coalition or other grassroots  efforts to support those who were staying at the Seminary Park encampment.

The conversation between the mayor and the dozen people who’d dropped by for an unannounced visit was conducted at a distance of 10 yards—between the sidewalk and Hamilton’s front porch.

One of the grievances aired Sunday night at the mayor’s house was that the Bloomington Homeless Coalition has not been invited to any of the meetings among various nonprofit and stakeholder groups, since the initial clearance of Seminary Park on Dec. 9.

Hamilton started off his response to the group about their non-inclusion in meetings by mentioning Beverly Calender-Anderson, who’s the director of the city’s community and family resources department (CFRD). That was met with shouts: “Aren’t you her boss?” and “You are the mayor!”

Hamilton urged those gathered on the sidewalk in front of his house Sunday night to call his office. Dugan picked up on that invitation by asking the mayor, “Can you promise me that if I call personally, when I call to your office, that you will schedule a meeting and you will meet with me?”

Hamilton asked if Dugan lived here in the city. Yes, was Dugan’s answer. “What’s your name?” asked the mayor. Dugan told him his name. That seemed to establish that a meeting would be scheduled.

Responding to Dugan’s statement that he would call the mayor on Monday morning, Hamilton reminded him that it’s a holiday—Martin Luther King day. That shifted the plan to a Tuesday morning call.

Of more immediate concern was that night’s lodging. Dugan asked the mayor: “Are we going to be evicted tonight?” Hamilton wanted to know how many people did not have a place to sleep. Dugan reported the number at somewhere between 13 and 15 people.

Hamilton said they should be working with Centerstone and Wheeler Mission. Dugan assured the mayor they had been working with those organizations.

Asked for a specific suggestion where to sleep that night, Hamilton suggested calling 211. When his comrades asked him if he had a phone, Dugan reported that he did, but it was showing “no service.”

Hamilton’s closing gambit was to say, “I appreciate your stopping, but this is my house…” Amid the chorus of shouts that came in response was Dugan’s declaration: “I plan on meeting with you!”

After Hamilton went back inside, Dugan said he and maybe a dozen others were planning to camp that night on the property of the carwash that’s south of Seminary Park. According to Dugan, the owner does not want them there, but has given them until Monday at 8 a.m. to leave.

On Monday, People’s Park on Kirkwood Avenue will be the next possible destination for some Seminary Park campers. A rally that is set to start at Seminary Park around 8:30 p.m. on Monday is supposed to end at People’s Park around 11 p.m.

Dugan wrapped up his remarks on Sunday by saying, “We’re going to set up and we’re going to occupy People’s until we finally do get some answers.”