GOSHEN — The homeless of the Millrace area were all but cleared out Wednesday as required by 48-hour notices issued on Monday.
“City staff was out today talking with the remaining campers and several of them requested storage opportunities, so we helped to load those items up,” Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said.
In total, six campers requested to have their items stored in the city’s storage facility. Each camper will have access to their equipment, the city said.
The majority of those individuals were going into treatment or shelters, but no one was forced to relinquish their property, according to the mayor.
“All the tents that we were aware of along the bike paths, they all agreed to move,” he said. “We were very happy with the number of people who took the nonprofits up on their offers to get treatment for their addictions.”
Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network Director Mindy Morehead said that while there may still be a few outliers, about 20 people were placed into homes or shelters or moved in with friends in the days preceding the eviction.
Notices were posted Monday morning, the deadline for the tent city dwellers, informing them that they were in an illegal campground and that they had 48 hours to leave the property.
"I am really proud of GIHN, Faith Mission, Oaklawn, Center for Healing and Hope, the Window – they’ve really come together to put together great packages for people in need,” Stutsman said. “They’ve done a phenomenal job at outreach. I’m also really grateful for the police and fire and other city employees doing outreach, and the amount of respect they showed everyone at this time. Exactly how I wanted to see it happen is exactly how it did happen.”
Any tents or other property that remain on the site will be removed by city staff, who have been instructed to hold the materials for up to 90 days. Morehead said there have been no signs of activity in the woods for several days.
“They have been pretty empty and the people got their stuff out of the tents already,” she said. “There were just a few down there that I knew of. As far as I know everyone has worked very hard to get everyone out of there.”
On Wednesday morning, a controlled burn took place at one of the campsites. The former inhabitant stated that he no longer wanted the tent because it had bed bugs, and city staff elected to burn the tent, rather than risking it contaminating other collected items in the storage unit.
Several individuals formerly living in the tent city have been transported to treatment centers for addiction, a few are being housed at Faith Mission, and one is staying at Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network, Morehead said. She said a couple have ventured onto private properties because “that’s where they want to stay.”
“This is a very complex issue,” Stutsman said. “The things we can do at the local level are almost mandates to the overall issue of homelessness, but they’re very important.”
The Goshen Homeless Coalition is continuing to work with the City of Goshen to find long-term housing solutions for low-income individuals in the city, as well as a low barrier shelter for those in need.
“We actually have a good portion of affordable housing in Goshen, but we don’t have enough of it,” Stutsman said. “At the end of the day, if a developer doesn’t come in and give a proposal for something, we can’t force them to give us that housing. In Goshen, we need more of all levels of housing, including affordable housing.”