Filed under: Action, Anarchist Movement, Gentrification, Housing, Midwest
Report from South Bend, Indiana of a Food Not Bombs action at the re-opening of a local park by the Buttigieg administration.
SOUTH BEND — In protest of the Buttigieg administration’s reckless inaction in keeping the city’s houseless population safe and warm this winter, local activist group Food Not Bombs South Bend protested today’s re-opening of Howard Park. Their message was clear: by directing city resources to gentrifying projects like the new Howard Park and away from services for houseless residents, “Mayor Pete,” is directly responsible both for pushing people into houselessness and for ensuring that being houseless in South Bend is mortally dangerous. The group held banners and signs, and heckled the mayor over a megaphone.
In light of the closure of the main branch of the St. Joseph County Public Library, which served as a place for houseless folks to stay warm during the day, the Buttigieg administration has failed to provide adequate solutions to prevent houseless people from freezing to death this winter. The city partners with Hope Ministries to use a city-owned building at 506 S Main St for “weather amnesty” overnight, providing a place to sleep and stay warm, but it is only open from 8 PM to 8 AM. The city claims it has dealt with the problem by issuing bus passes, but that is not enough: the buses don’t run on Sundays, and the passes haven’t been distributed to every houseless person. Moreover, forcing people to go to library branches that aren’t centrally located can leave people stranded in areas with no services if they miss the last bus, which can be as early as 5 PM on some lines.
Opening the weather amnesty building during the day is a simple, affordable solution that the city can implement right away. Food Not Bombs has been reaching out to the city for some time on this issue: they visited the mayor’s office on November 21st, and spoke at a City Council meeting on November 25. At both times, city officials claimed that they had no authority on the issue, and that the decision to extend hours at weather amnesty lied entirely with Hope Ministries. This story is not credible: Food Not Bombs has contacts closely involved with the weather amnesty service who report that Hope Ministries is completely ready to open during the day in terms of staffing and logistics. Regardless, this attempt to “pass the buck” is shameful: preventing people from freezing to death on the street is an essential city service, and the city owns the building in question. Even if David Vanderveen and the Hope Ministries administration are being uncooperative, it is clear that the city has not exhausted its authority.
Meanwhile, the Buttigieg administration continues to cave in regards to long term solutions to houselessness, focusing its efforts instead on flashy gentrification projects such as the newly renovated Howard Park. As these efforts raise housing prices and push people out on the street, the only efforts the city can point to to address houselessness are paltry at best. For example, the city is actually paying to dispose of buildings it purchased in a failed effort to house people, and is struggling to spend roughly $1 million on a separate project to house “up to” six people. On his presidential campaign, Mayor Pete has claimed that he stands with houseless people in Las Vegas, but his record at home points in another direction.