Bloomington homeless camp faces closure, but help being offered

BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) -- An empty lot in Bloomington has been occupied for years by people experiencing homelessness. But soon, they will have to leave, as the city recently approved a new restaurant to be built there. Now, some of them have an opportunity to work.

"Nobody wants to be on camera and say they're homeless," said Ronnie Morris, who lives at the empty lot.

Morris said he has been living at the empty lot off of Market Street in Bloomington for months. He said he wanted to find a job, but said the opportunity was not there for people like him, experiencing homelessness.

"This isn't something you want to see its kind of ugly?" Morris said, when referring to the row of tents.

The city recently voted to allow a Panda Express to fill the vacant lot. Which means the people who live there in their tents, will need a new place to go.

"The people living out there are trying to make it nice so people don't keep calling but it's just kind of a weird grey area where we're at right now," said Officer John Fermon with the Bloomington Police Department.

Officer Fermon said being homeless was not a crime.

"At this point we really don't have any authority to remove them from that private property," said Officer Fermon.

He said when it was time for the people in the lot to leave, the officers would provide them with resources the city had to offer.

Resources like, Home Sweet Home Ministries, serving the homeless populations in McLean County for over a century.

"The people who are experiencing homelessness are members of this community, they're neighbors," Matt Burgess, CEO of Home Sweet Home Ministries.

Burgess said the shelter offers people a place to stay, food and services to get them into their own home.

Although, he said this was a bigger city issue than just that lot.

"What we have to offer, what our system has to offer doesn't fit for them. That could be because of mental illness, that could be because of addiction, or for a number of other factors," said Burgess.

As for what's next for the people on Market Street, most of them said they received jobs in Decatur. After recent media attention they said they were approached with the opportunity. They said they start on Friday.

But for Morris, he wants to stay put.

"If every building and every property is bought out, where do the homeless people have to go that are put out on the streets," said Morris.

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