Residents: Don't Give Handouts To Homeless

Police, Advocacy Groups, Homeless Meet In Search Of Solutions

The friction between residents who live near downtown and homeless people who live under bridges downtown is increasing.

Several groups met with Indianapolis police Monday to try to work through the growing tension, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

Davidson Street is littered with trash and human waste left behind by up to 30 homeless people who have created their own neighborhood within a neighborhood.

"It's terrible, and it doesn't improve," said Richard Campi, who lives nearby. "It keeps growing, and we are tired of it."

This winter, up to 200 people have taken shelter under bridges downtown. Police said the camps generate dozens of complaints daily, many from area businesses worried about the affect on the bottom line.

"There's no solution," said business owner John Barry. "If we were near Lucas Oil Stadium, it wouldn't be an issue, but we're not."

"The businesses that are here, we want to survive, and we don't want people to be afraid to come downtown," said Tina LaGrotte, of Milano Inn.

Several churches and volunteer groups have been regularly dropping off food and clothing to the homeless. Critics argue that serves to make a life on the street possible.

"We're not saying, 'No, don't do that.' We're saying, 'Do it with an organization that is working to get them into social services,'" said Michael Hurst, of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention.

Someone who was trying to keep warm set fire to the Davidson Street camp several weeks ago, threatening a rail line above that is designated as homeland security infrastructure.

The camp then drew the attention of Mayor Greg Ballard and police, who evicted the homeless that day, but it didn't force them out for good.

"They're (residents and businesses) calling police to help solve their problems," said Indianapolis police Sgt. Bob Hipple. "We just have to look outside the department for other resources to solve the problem."

Campi called out to neighbors, the police and homeless providers to help find a solution. The group also invited "Scott," the so-called mayor of Davidson Street, to weigh in.

"I probably wouldn't want the homeless down there either, but they're not going to go away," Scott said. "They're not going to walk off and disappear."

Police and service providers said it's difficult to talk someone into mental health or addiction treatment and job counseling when they can't even be convinced to come in from the cold.

Researchers said Indianapolis has an average of 1,545 people who are homeless at any given time. The cost of arresting a homeless person is nearly $1,800.

Dealing with arrests and mental health issues of the homeless costs taxpayers up to $11 million a year.