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JEFFERSONVILLE Ind. (WDRB) -- A homeless community says city leaders came into their camps and threw almost everything out, including everything to keep them warm in the coming months. The city of Jeffersonville says it is a health issue, and that it was only removing trash from local homeless camps.
"The sound, the cars and stuff going up above, you get used to it after a month or two," said Jack Blanton of living under an overpass. The underbelly of Interstate 65 in Jeffersonville is what the 20-year-old calls home. "It's just a bad situation all around," he said.
He says things got worse when city workers came around Wednesday morning. "They told us that we had to get out of there while they cleaned down here, and they told us they weren't going to touch our stuff," he explained. "When I came back around 1 o'clock, everything was gone. All four blankets all of our mats, all of our stuff we've been building up to stay warm for the winter for the past couple months."
But it did not force them out, they say they are not going anywhere. "This is our busiest time of course, with winter around the corner on the 21st of December," said Paul Stensrud, with Jesus Cares at Exit 0, a homeless outreach group. "We're trying to get these guys geared up for the winter, they have nowhere to go, the shelters are full."
Stensrud says basic necessities and even personal belongings were taken from five different campsites. "Blankets, sleeping bags, we have government issued phones. There was one female on the streets by herself, she lost memorabilia of her child, basically pictures," said Stensrud.
But the city of Jeffersonville says the homeless camps were notified the day before, and told to remove any personal belongings. "We did not confiscate anything except we removed garbage and debris," said Leslie Merkley, Jeffersonville city attorney. "Not only is it an issue with residents and business owners, it is a public health issue."
The city says they would not mind if the group would just to a less populated area they have designated. "We're not telling them that they cannot you know congregate in the city of Jeffersonville, we're just saying if you're going to do it, this is the area we'd prefer for you to do it," Merkley explained. He says this area would make complaints from business owners and residents go down.
Meanwhile, Exit 0 has restocked blankets so Jack and the four or five others who were affected can get through the night. "It's kind of wrong in the sense that it's getting cold, for them to take the blankets."
Exit 0 says they have a great relationship with Clarksville, and want to have that same connection in Jeffersonville, but have contacted the ACLU.
Merkley says Mayor Mike Moore would like to speak with other local communities to find a long-term solution to the issue.