INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Time is ticking for nearly 70 homeless Hoosiers who have for years lived in a tent camp just south of downtown Indianapolis. The city has given them an eviction notice and they have until Monday to leave.
24-Hour News 8 has learned there's an effort underway to find shelter for all of them before then.
The camp has been considered a nuisance by businesses, customers and residents for years. It's a mini city of sorts — a homeless camp that sits under a CSX train viaduct on Davidson Avenue, southeast of downtown.
"People call it tent city, but we know it as Irish Hill. And it's a community. It's more of a community," says Maurice.
And if it is a community, Maurice is its mayor. He's been living in his tent for two years. But the city has told Maurice and the 66 others they have to leave by Monday morning. Signs posted say it's for construction and bridge cleaning. Maurice believes the land across from the tent city has been sold for development.
"This probably doesn't help land values too much here," he says, pointing to the collection of tents.
"At times like this, agencies really ensure that anyone who wants to get into housing can," says Christy Shepard, executive director of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, or CHIP.
Shepard said working with about a dozen different local agencies, they have already found shelter for some of those who had been living at Davidson. But, she admits some might leave only to set up their tents under a different bridge.
"Possibly," she says. "We cannot force anyone, any individual, to do something."
Maurice says if they get everyone housed, there will be nothing much to do Monday morning. But if they don't, he says, those remaining won't leave quietly. He says in either case, his tent will likely continue to be his home.
"I will probably set up camp somewhere else and still continue to help the people who have homeless issues and are homeless," he says.
Shepard says on any given day, about 1,600 people are considered homeless in Indianapolis. That number, she says, is staying steady. She says the city has been a good partner in finding help for those living on the streets and says she's been told the intent is not to arrest anyone. It's to recapture the land for the property owner and find shelter for those willing to take it.
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