GOSHEN — Eviction day has come for the residents of Goshen’s tent city and city Director of Community Development Mark Brinson says the population at the Millrace has been nothing but accepting and understanding.
“People are moving out,” Brinson said. “There’s activity going on right now.”
John Shafer with Michiana Five for the Homeless said at least five tents were in use as of Sunday night, with as many as eight people still residing in them, but individuals were evacuating the property all weekend.
“Some of the tents that are out in the open are still there but they don’t look like there is anybody there,” Brinson said.
At least two tent city residents have left the encampment to go to treatment for addictions with help from Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network.
“There’s some good things that have come from a result of this process,” Brinson said. “We’re all hoping they can be successful in treatment and find permanent housing.”
Two others may have found apartments in the weeks leading up to eviction day. Some are still unaccounted for, since there’s no way to track where people have gone once they’ve left the site.
“One of the guys that has been (living along the Millrace for) a couple years, and he is still there, but he is working on moving out. He’s asked for a little more time and we told him he has 48 hours and we are hoping that is enough time to take care of the moving arrangements,” Brinson said.
The Goshen Coalition for the Homeless is a group of like-minded organizations geared at helping the homeless of Goshen. The coalition includes the Center for Healing and Hope, Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network, Oaklawn, The Window, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, Elkhart County Clubhouse, Faith Mission of Elkhart, Goshen Salvation Army, Faith and Hope House, and Operation Treehouse.
The pace picked up in the spring after a city-appointed Homeless Task Force drafted an ordinance to relocate those living in public areas, indicating that as many as 50 people were living in tents along the Millrace and 20 in other public areas in the city of Goshen. Residents of the Hawks apartment building on the other side of the canal began making complaints at city council meetings, citing fighting and drug use.
Since the announcement, many individuals have sought public assistance to remove themselves from the encampments, or left to find other places to stay.
According to Mike Perez, resource/development director for Faith Mission of Elkhart, the homeless shelter has taken on three individuals through its special amnesty program designed for the Goshen homeless population.
“I think most of the folks want to find permanent housing,” Perez said. “At least they are out of the tents and working on going somewhere safe. Our programs will be available if we have a bed for them, otherwise we will work with the programs in Goshen to help them find permanent housing.”
Brinson said at least two of the tent city residents have ventured onto private properties along the riverbanks. The city also left an eviction notice for another resident they’ve never met but left an eviction notice for, but Brinson is hopeful that the encampment will continue to diminish over the coming days and all of Goshen’s homeless can find safer, more permanent shelters in the coming days.
“Out of all the campsites it looks like we only have two active campsites today,” Brinson said in the morning. “There are a number of tents we believe are abandoned. We posted at each campsite today with a 48-hour notice to leave the site. We will go back in 48 hours and do our clean up activities. (...) If we have a couple people left and they are struggling with what to do next then we will continue to do as we have been working with our partners at the homeless coalition to bring them through the transition.”
Should any items remain on the public property along either the Abshire Park area along Rock Run Creek or along the Millrace, Goshen Assistant Building Commissioner Myron Grise, who has also served as the city’s advocate to the homeless during the removal process, has been tasked with collecting the items and storing them for up to 90 days for any tent city resident that wishes to collect the items.