Fence pops up around homeless camp before NCAA tourney; Convention Center says no connection

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A line of fencing covered in a black curtain has popped up directly in front of a homeless camp downtown just days before thousands will ascend on the city for the NCAA tournament and other basketball events.

The curtained fencing sits on a median at the corner of West Street and Maryland Street between the Indiana Convention Center, Victory Field and Lucas Oil Stadium.

The city focused on cleaning up and putting its best foot forward for college basketball teams and sports fans. While the Indiana Convention Center, which represents the Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, put up the fence, its operators says the fencing is not related to the tournament. The people behind the block say otherwise.

The line of fencing was put up Friday afternoon by B&B Contracting and Supply. The company says the request for the fence came from Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center. Behind that covered fence is a homeless camp that has been there for more than a year and landscaping.

Due to the location of the camp right between three major event venues, a man staying in the tents says the camp catches people’s eyes.

“You get funny looks from people that don’t understand, like when you got the games going on out here you get people that are outsiders from the different cities coming out of Lucas Oil stadium walking past or people with their kids going to the Convention Center,” said a man who asked that we not publish his name. “They shake their head and walk past but they notice you.”

“It is going to look like it was put up to prevent anybody from seeing what is behind here. But really we see it as we are not being bothered by what is on the other side of there,” said the man.

According to a representative for Convention Center, the fence was put up to “maintain the property” and has nothing to do with the tournament that will be bringing thousands of people to Indianapolis in a matter of days.

The Convention Center maintains that median as a partnership with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, giving a dumpster to the camp to help remove trash. They say there are no plans to take the fence down after the tournament.

Steve Kerr, chief development officer with Wheeler Mission, says he doesn’t think the fence was put up with ill intent. “I can see how it can be misunderstood absolutely. I hope and pray that it is not the intent.”

While those staying at the camp say they don’t mind the fence being there they find the timing and the placement to be very ironic. “As far as the tournament goes, it looks better for the city, yeah,” said the man. “It is to protect everybody on the other side of this fence. This ain’t for us. We don’t bother nobody.”

Insisting the fence wasn’t placed to strategically to hide the homeless camp, the Convention Center says the camp was told ahead of time that the fence would be going up.

The fence comes the same day that the city started blocking off roads and started community cleanups for the NCAA tournament. All games in the tournament will be played in Indianapolis, Bloomington and West Lafayette as a way to battle the coronavirus.