News and Tribune

December 5, 2012

Sweeps of homeless camps in Jeffersonville to stop


CLARK COUNTY — The city of Jeffersonville has halted all sweeps of homeless camps until it develops a new policy.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore unveiled a plan to address homelessness at a Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday, which includes working with other municipalities to develop a long-term solution to the problem. The plan was borne out of a sweep that took place last week in which belongings from some of the people living under the Interstate 65 viaduct near exit 0 were taken by the city during a cleanup of the area.

“We made a mistake last week,” Moore said. “We took some property that belonged to some individuals and the situation wasn’t handled well. In the future we need to be a little more certain about what our steps are going to be.”

The city of Jeffersonville and Jesus Cares at Exit 0, a homeless outreach group, had reached a verbal agreement that the city would notify the ministry group before the street department would sweep the area to collect trash. All of the sweeps were also supposed to be conducted on Fridays.

However, the group said they were not notified about the sweep conducted around 8:30 a.m. last Wednesday morning.

City Attorney Les Merkley previously explained the sweeps are conducted because it is a public health issue and are often prompted by complaints made by nearby residents and business owners.

The group living in camps near exit 0 that borders both Jeffersonville and Clarksville prompted the call for a regional solution.

“I don’t believe this is an issue that is just a Jeffersonville issue, it is an issue that the whole community needs to get involved in,” Moore said. “I think we need to get a solution including Clarksville and New Albany, and the other municipalities around us. In the meantime I don’t want to do anymore sweeps until we have this discussion and get a plan laid out.”

The city announced in a press release that it is working with Clarksville Town Council President John Gilkey to establish a joint task force on homelessness.

Moore said they may not meet after the first of the year to begin working on a policy. And until then, the sweeps have been halted.

“At this time it just doesn’t make sense for us to formulate a policy in a vacuum without having input from individuals that are dealing with this on a day-to-day basis,” Merkley said.

Michelle Stensrud, board member of Jesus Cares at Exit 0, said Jeffersonville’s communication with the outreach group is a good step.

She said the group already has a great working relationship with Clarksville and is hopeful that similar progress will be made with Jeffersonville.

“None of us like the situation the way it is,” she said. “We all agree there needs to be a better system in place.”

Stensrud agreed with Moore that the issue is not limited to Jeffersonville and it is a regional concern.

“The system right now is broken,” she said. “We have one shelter for five counties. The shelter we have is full all the time. We need more beds and more resources. I hope we are able to get a common ground, a building is what we would really like to see happen. We know its never going to be completely fixed, but it can be better.”

Interlocal agreement approved

The board of public works unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with New Albany on a P25 radio system that will be used by first responders.

The agreement was previously approved by the city council at its meeting Monday night.