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Associated Press
Sam Steed quietly works the corner of Illinois and Georgia Street on Sunday, looking for a handout from passersby.

Homeless roust in Indianapolis Super Bowl site

INDIANAPOLIS – The number of homeless people on a downtown Indianapolis street that underwent a multimillion-dollar revamp to become the centerpiece of this year’s Super Bowl Village has drawn complaints from businesses and visitors.

Workers last week moved numerous outdoor tables and chairs from along Georgia Street near where a church gives out meals to the homeless and poor, The Indianapolis Star reported Monday (http://indy.st/Oycywl).

Indianapolis Downtown Inc. spokeswoman Julia Watson said the organization, which promotes downtown events and manages Georgia Street, has received complaints in the past few weeks about people camping out in the area.

The city spent about $12.5 million revamping a three-block section of Georgia Street between the Indiana Convention Center and Bankers Life Fieldhouse into a pedestrian-friendly mall ahead of the Super Bowl, with visions of it becoming a haven for outdoor dining and activities.

Watson said Indianapolis Downtown Inc. often moves the outdoor furnishings – about 15 tables and 60 chairs – around to accommodate organizations that rent a portion of the Georgia Street space. She said the furnishings were going to better use on sections of the street that have more restaurants and businesses.

People getting meals from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church have often sat at the tables to eat.

“It’s OK for them to be there,” Watson said. “The concern was that they were there for so long and making it their staying place.”

Tens of thousands of people attended festivities along the street in the week leading up to February’s Super Bowl, but few other activities have been held since.

The Rev. Eric Nagel, who has led St. John for three years, said the church feeds up to 70 people a day.

“There’s definitely been an increase in those three years that I’ve been aware of,” Nagel said. “Statistically, it sounds like it’s higher, and we’ve experienced that here, as well.”

The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention’s count of homeless people in the city has increased from 1,454 in 2009 to 1,647 this year.

“It seems like this has turned into a negative issue,” said Melissa Burgess, a street outreach team coordinator for homeless advocacy group Horizon House. “They shouldn’t be ostracized or discriminated against because they’re homeless.”

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