'This is our home. I was born and raised here...' Local leaders are working to figure out the homeless problem in Terre Haute

About 400 people in Terre Haute are homeless or days away from becoming homeless and it's becoming a safety concern. Local leaders are now looking at ways they can help.

Posted: Jun 19, 2019 10:43 PM
Updated: Jun 20, 2019 12:09 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) -- More than 400 people in Terre Haute are homeless, or are days away from being homeless.

Assistant Fire Chief Norm Loudermilk walked through areas where groups of homeless people are camping and living.

Literally, right behind tree lines, there are tons of tents and camps set up where people are living.

Loudermilk and other leaders are looking into something the community can do.

"We're not looking for a handout, everybody needs a hand up now and then," Charles Compton, a man living in one of these temporary camps said.

Driving through Terre Haute, you may see a few people sleeping on benches, or panhandling for money, but behind some of the tree lines in the city is a whole different world.

"It's temporary and they don't have a choice. We make the best of a bad situation and it beats being locked up," Compton said.

Recently Loudermilk said the fire department has gotten a small epidemic of calls for illegal burns.

"In investigating those illegal burns and why businesses are complaining of people burning on their property or that people are complaining along this heritage trail that they're burning and we get called out," he said. "I'm noticing in a very short amount of time the various temporary camps that people have set up."

Now, Loudermilk wants help in setting up a place for these people. A place where, he says, they can have running water, a bathroom or porta potty, and somewhere safe and more sanitary.

"The people that are staying in these areas are cooking in there. They're going to the restroom there and of course, being on a trail riding a bike jogging makes it kind of a health hazard," Loudermilk said. 

Compton said even just a small area like that would make a huge difference.

"That would be fabulous that would just be very helpful and help us keep the environment clean," he said. "We're not here to trash anything this is our home. I was born and raised here."

Loudermilk has brought the issue up to other local leaders to see if there is anything that can be done. He recently brought it to the attention of the Terre Haute City Council. He said he just wants to make more people aware and help to keep everyone safe and prevent fires. 

"I think that we can judge a society on how we treat our people that are disadvantaged and right now they are and so I'd like to be able to see them given a better opportunity," he said. 

Loudermilk said he wants something to be done soon to help them and also to make sure others in the community stay safe.

Norm isn't the only one looking for a solution.

Vigo County Commissioner Brenden Kearns is looking at starting and building a heating and cooling center.

It would be a place where people with nowhere else to go could get warm during the winter and cool down during the summer.

Loudermilk said he fully supports the idea, but he thinks we need a short term solution sooner than that.

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