Indianapolis Ordinance on Homeless Encampments

What are the target goals?

In the face of concerns about a homeless encampment, multiple agencies within the City of Indianapolis worked with community partners and service providers to offer people transitional and permanent housing solutions. Recognizing the recurring nature of these issues, the city moved to codify a process for dealing with encampments.

The Indianapolis ordinance provides details such as which partners should be involved, how they are engaged, and the responsibilities of city officials. In addition, the ordinance acknowledges that without guidance, the city's response to encampments may have impacts that are "arbitrary and capricious." By establishing expectations, the ordinance aims to "lessen the adverse effects and conditions caused by the lack of a home."

Who are the partners?

A diverse set of partners are specifically mentioned in the ordinance, including:
The city's Department of Public Safety;
The Continuum of Care, which is responsible for the administration and coordination of the city's homeless programs and resources;
Service providers (e.g. outreach workers, case managers, benefits specialists, housing navigators, etc.); and
Faith-based organizations and street ministries.

How is the effort financed?

There are no direct costs associated with the passage of this ordinance. Future costs associated with the purchase, use, and storage of the 96-gallon containers provided to each displaced person are anticipated to be a part of the operating budget for the city's community engagement center (Reuben Engagement Center) which is expected to open in August or September 2016.

Other Details

Before mandating that individuals living in an encampment move, the ordinance requires they be given a 15-day notification. The ordinance directs the partners listed above to collectively identify and access transitional or permanent housing, as well as supportive services.

While the ordinance has yet to be used, Section 231-503(d) stipulates that in the event of insufficient housing, the city will give priority to long-term residents of the camp if the city makes a written determination that an emergency exists.

Notably, the law does not require the community's Continuum of Care providers to give priority to long-term residents of encampments. As a result, should the city face the situation outlined, it would need to either negotiate with the area's homeless service providers to waive any existing prioritizations or use housing resources controlled by the city. City controlled resources could include programs administered through the Department of Metropolitan Development and/or housing owned or operated by the Indianapolis Housing Agency, the city's public housing authority.

Despite outlining these provisions, the ordinance continues to provide the City with the authority to determine that an emergency exists and close encampments without providing housing and services. Section 2313-502(a), the ordinance defines emergency based on the county public code as a situation that "could lead to serious harm to public health or safety."


City-County General Ordinance No. 2, 2016

Contact Information

Julie Fidler 
Housing and Services Specialist, Department of Public Safety, City of Indianapolis

Alan Witchey
Executive Director, Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention (CHIP)

NLC Staff Contact
Elisha Harig-Blaine

(Last Modified: April 2016, E. Harig-Blaine, NLC)

Program Area