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Homeless seeking shelter in academic buildings on campus

POSTED AT 08:37 PM ON Feb. 24, 2010  (UPDATED AT 12:42 PM ON Feb. 25, 2010)

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Bloomington’s frigid and unpredictable winter climate is driving some of Bloomington’s homeless into campus buildings.

“Every now and then we will run across somebody sleeping in an academic building,” said IU Police Department Lt. Craig Munroe.

Munroe said the library and the Union are two places people go because the buildings are open 24 hours.

The first time a homeless person is discovered in an academic building they are advised of trespass, which is a warning, but are not kicked out. If a second incident occurs, the person is arrested and will face preliminary charges of trespass, a misdemeanor.

“We don’t keep them in the cold,” Munroe said. “We have our dispatchers call up shelters to find a location for them to stay.”

Although she said she believes it is an unfortunate situation, IU Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson explained that academic buildings are not shelters.

“Our campus buildings are for campus services,” Hanson said. “I believe IUPD handles these occurrences in a very humane way.”

Many of the academic buildings are locked at various hours of the night, but Hanson said there are graduate students who have keys to access them at all times.

There are multiple reasons why some homeless might not stay in local shelters, such as a failed sobriety test or not being a Bloomington resident, said Bobbie Summers, director of local homeless shelter Martha’s House. She also said many of the homeless might not be aware of shelters.

She said even if Martha’s House is overcrowded, staff will distribute bus tickets for individuals to seek another shelter.

“I have only had a couple of nights where I had to turn people away,” Summers said. “I have not known any of the shelters in town to be at capacity.”

 

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