Bloomington man experiencing homelessness leads demonstration to mayor’s house
Travis Dugan, 36, walked up the steps to Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s house Sunday night, knocked on his door and asked him why he had to keep moving his tent, his home.
Dugan has been unhoused in Bloomington since he was 18.
The city had suspended a rule which required people to have a special use permit to set up a tent in Seminary Park past 11 p.m. to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The city has cleared the camp and evicted people staying in the park twice since Dec. 9. One of the times the rule was enforced was Thursday, when Dugan and others were evicted from the park.
He knocked on the door twice before walking back down to the sidewalk to march around to the side of the house.
“Mayor Hamilton,” he yelled at the house. “Excuse me, sir. Mayor Hamilton.”
He noticed there were lights on in the house, the windows were open and a car was pulled into the driveway.
Then, Hamilton opened the door. Dugan rushed to the front of the house, careful to not step on Hamilton’s lawn.
“I’m part of the homeless tent out there, and I’m being asked to up and move my home and be put somewhere else,” Dugan yelled at the front door from the sidewalk. “I don’t see how it is fair for me and my family to have to be uprooted and moved every day when — you are a perfect example, you living in a house with your family — and you don’t have to move every day.”
Dugan paused for a second.
“Is it because we live in poverty?” he said.
“I care very deeply about helping all of you,” Hamilton said, standing in his doorway.
[Related: Community grieving, scared after two people experiencing homelessness die within two days]
Hamilton suggested Dugan call his office and talk to him during work hours. He was, after all, spending time with his family, he said.
Dugan had walked to Hamilton’s house from the closed car wash on Walnut Avenue, which is next to Seminary Park. He had been camping in the park when his tent was removed by Bloomington Police Department personnel Thursday.
Six allies of the Bloomington homeless community accompanied Dugan on the 15-minute march. Many of them, including Molly Stewart, are volunteers with the Bloomington Homeless Coalition. Some of them carried signs.
“Hamilton, how does it feel to commit crimes against humanity?” Stewart’s sign read.
[Related: ‘Everybody has a right to live’: Protesters criticize mayor, BPD after Seminary Park eviction]
Dugan said he wanted to talk to Hamilton because he wants to know why he and others experiencing homelessness have to keep moving their homes when Hamilton can stay safely in his.
“I’m really hoping that he does give me some good answers on what it is that is so wrong with us being in the park and what is so wrong for us having a little spot for ourselves,” Dugan said as he walked up University Street.
Hamilton said he would like to talk to Dugan, but instructed him to call his office and speak with him during work hours. Other people in the crowd hesitated to accept this answer. Many of them claimed they had called the office many times to no avail.
“Why hasn’t the Bloomington Homeless Coalition been invited to any meeting about the evictions or about the homeless since December 9?” Stewart said.
Group members continued to ask Hamilton why he was not communicating with them more, when Dugan interrupted them with a question.
“Can you promise me that if I call personally and I talk to your office that you will schedule a meeting and you will meet with me?” Dugan said.
Hamilton said Dugan should call on Tuesday, after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and said he would meet with him.