Concerns, solutions voiced for homelessness awareness week

Mayor Tom Henry speaking at the homeless awareness week presser on November 17, 2014.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – City and community leaders rallied to bring awareness to “the least of these” as part of Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week Monday. It comes days after the city evicted almost a dozen homeless people from downtown riverfront property.

Donovan Coley, CEO of the Rescue Mission, amplified his concerns with the city’s eviction notice tactic during a press conference about the awareness week.

“I pray Fort Wayne, that we will offer true compassion by not asking individuals just to move their stuff, but that we will help them to pick up their lives,” Coley said on the Allen County courthouse green. “I pray that we will not lose our individual and community conscience in the pursuit of economic and riverfront development.”

In August, Coley first told 15 Finds Out about his concerns for the future of the homeless in a revitalizing downtown in the investigative series “Down and Out in Downtown.” Monday morning, he expanded on solutions to eradicate homelessness in Fort Wayne.

“I pray that we will come together as a community with real resources and real solutions to develop a comprehensive plan for a welcome center, for a day center, medical detox with therapeutic treatment, and other tools to address this issue in our beloved community,” Coley said.

About a dozen homeless people received notices Thursday night saying that they are violating a city ordinance by staying in a tent on city property, near the river. The notice said they had 24 hours to move, or they could be arrested and have their belongings thrown away. Police officials said they handed out a booklet filled with information on where to seek assistance and shelter along with the notices.

Homeless advocates from around the community, including Mayor Tom Henry (D-Fort Wayne) rallied to bring attention toward the homeless plight during the press conference. Henry said didn’t wear an overcoat in order to experience what some homeless people are going through.

15 Finds Out showed the eviction notice to Henry after Monday’s press conference. He said it was the first time he had heard of it.

“I’m going to have to check with our police department to find out truly what caused them to be in a position like this,” Henry said. “If it was complaint-driven, obviously there were citizens in our community that were concerned, but I’ll need to check in with it more.”

He and another city official didn’t give a clear opinion on the eviction notices.

Anyone interested in helping out the homeless are invited to participate in some of the following events for Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week:

  •  A Tour of several of the facilities in Fort Wayne where people can seek shelter and be connected to programs to help move them to self-sufficiency is set for Wednesday, November 19 at noon. This van tour takes starts in the parking lot across from the University of Saint Francis Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center (former Scottish Rite), 431 W. Berry St.
  • The “Real Change” Pop-Up Arts Event is scheduled for Wednesday, November 19 from 5-9 p.m. at Wunderkammer, 3402 Fairfield Ave. The public is encouraged to attend this first-of-its-kind event where people will interact with local artists whose work features the topic of homelessness. Work created by homeless artists will also be exhibited. This event is designed to engage attendees in ongoing conversation about the community and how each individual can do something to address the challenge of homelessness. The event is free, but donations of non-perishable food items are welcome.
  • Skip a Lunch, Feed a Bunch is scheduled for Thursday, November 20. On this day, everyone is invited to donate the money they would typically spend on lunch to the Rescue Mission, which provides more than 217,000 meals a year to anyone who needs them.

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