By the Slice shelters homeless man; neighbors voice concern

City issues preliminary warning of fine
By the Slice shelters homeless man; neighbors voice concern
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - An Evansville business owner has claimed he is being persecuted for trying to help a homeless friend.

The Evansville City Council heard complaints Monday at their meeting that the addition of bench dividers prevent the homeless from sleeping on them.

This investment along with a possible fine for a business owner trying to help out have some people concerned about how the city responds to homelessness.

At the Monday’s meeting, Dr. Tom Stratton criticized the installation of bench dividers on Main Street. Bench dividers are seen by some as hostile as they prevent people who are homeless from laying down to sleep.

Stratton said it costs taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars with the end goal of deterring people who are homeless, and he likened it to the city’s response to an ongoing situation at the restaurant By the Slice.

“A go-to spot in the university area for years now faces get this tens of thousands of dollars of fines for violating whatever ordinances have been invoked regarding structures and blah blah blah,” said Stratton.

By The Slice owner Eric Weber has been letting a homeless man live in the alley behind his building.

Weber said he’s known the man since childhood, and he suffers from schizophrenia. He lets the man stay there and looks after him.

“It’s not a good fix,” Weber admitted. “Trust me, what I’m doing is really not working that well, but it’s better than nothing.”

Weber said he was sent notice of a fine for having a tent that was provided by a neighbor set up on the property.

One anonymous neighbor spoke with 14 News to voice their concern over the homeless man’s presence in his neighborhood.

“It’s an eyesore,” they said. “It’s, I keep going back to, a potential safety issue. Hopefully, the guy who picks up the dumpster sets it in the right place, because he’s not too far out of the squash zone.”

Weber said he understands being uneasy, but he feels the man’s options are limited by what’s available and what his mental illness might prevent.

“I wasn’t afraid of him, and some people are, I mean, he acts crazy, he looks kind of crazy, he smells bad, I get it,” said Weber. “I don’t really like it. He has good moments, but it’s not fun. And as opposed to getting help from the city, I’m getting persecuted.”

Weber said the man is still part of the community and deserves to have some help that he hasn’t found elsewhere.

The neighbor who spoke with 14 News said that perhaps the man doesn’t want help and whatever help he may need is beyond what Weber can provide.

City Councilman and head of Aurora Zac Heronemus said there’s a right and wrong way to get someone help, and you can’t go wrong getting them in touch with a homeless organization.

“As complex as the homeless experience is, that’s why we have organizations here in our community to help them navigate the systems and make sure that they’re moving in an upward trajectory to take care of themselves,” said Heronemus.

Heronemus said the city recently set aside over a million dollars in Rescue Plan Act funds to go toward homeless services in the area.