I-Team 8

Demands to clean up east-side homeless camp reach Mayor Hogsett’s office

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — For decades, a segment of the city’s homeless population has been attracted to South Pine Street on the city’s near east side.

A couple years ago, the city fenced off areas under the bridge for sanitation reasons. And the city’s Department of Public Works is supposed to clean this area on a regular basis, which has not been happening. The owner of a building that backs up to this area says he has had enough.  

The owner of the building — who asked News 8 not to use his name or face out of fear of repercussions — has surveillance cameras on every corner of the building. In the past couple of weeks, the cameras have captured brutal fights, this one is between a man and woman. It also captured an armed robbery: The video shows someone pointing a gun at another person inside of a tent and then running away.  

 “I have a video recording machine and there was actually a gun being held to the back of a guy’s head getting robbed,” said the building owner.

His cameras also captured people defecating on the side of his building, dealing drugs and engaging in other deviant activities.   

“When they are down there fighting, when you see people with guns, when the homeless unit tells, you do not go over there and interact with them for your safety. I used to walk five miles a day around the block, and now I don’t,” said the building owner.

In the daylight, the homeless camp is quiet. There are mountains of trash, clothes strewn across the area, plenty of leftover food and blankets. The city has moved people away from this camp several times over the years and installed a fence to keep people from urinating and defecating under the bridge. 

The camp was shut down about a year ago due to rat infestation and safety issues, according to Sgt. Tabatha McLemore of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s homeless unit.

“They have moved back in over there and since then, we go over there weekly, we offer them trash bags. We have been over there at least twice with DPW to get clean as much as we can,” McLemore said.

 DPW’s trucks can’t get under the bridge, so trash is piled up on the south side of the bridge, where DPW can pick up.  

“So the health department can go over there and do a safety check; they will check for rats and make sure everything is OK, make sure nobody’s health is in jeopardy, so we have a few things in the pipeline. It is just unfortunately not something that happens overnight,” McLemore said.

 Under the city’s homeless bill of rights, if the city moves the people in this camp, the city must put them in transitional housing and store all of their belongings for 60 days.