Laura Lane and Abby Tonsing, Herald-Times
Bloomington’s homelessness and addictions crisis was center stage last summer, playing out along Kirkwood Avenue at the edge of Indiana University’s manicured campus.
The challenges remain, but are more out of sight, steered away from the heart of downtown.
The situation evolved into a crisis this time last year when homeless and transient people, many suffering from mental illness or addiction disorders and sometimes both, camped out along Kirkwood Avenue.
Their presence disrupted the tranquility and carefree mood that overtakes a college town when its 40,000 students are away for the summer.
Calls reporting overdoses, fights and trespassing challenged police officers, firefighters and medics. The opioid-overdose antidote naloxone became an essential tool for emergency responders and members of the public alike.
Peoples Park on Dunn Street, across from Hartzell’s ice cream shop, was no place for families and kids.
Things changed after the city administration took notice, and a police presence in the park caused people to migrate to encampments along Kirkwood Avenue. The city council had been besieged by complaints and demands that the issue be addressed in a caring yet effective way.
It was about that time that Dwayne Gordon, the Bloomington-area director for Indianapolis-based Wheeler Mission, met with city officials and local agencies dealing with an out-of-control crisis rooted in the issues of transients and homelessness, addictions and untreated mental illness.
“We looked at what was happening here and crisis on Kirkwood,” Gordon said, looking back a year. “We have our first mission, to serve the homeless and those in need. And we also saw a purpose for us to help alleviate some of the challenges. There seemed to be a fear with some of the public visiting downtown.”