Homelessness brought onto the playing field in Indianapolis Super Bowl XLVI

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the infamous Indian Removal Act to obtain more Native American land for colonists. Thus, he decided to boot the natives out to Oklahoma, brushing away the problem — at least from his sight.

Take a step into the future of Feb. 5, where many will head to Indianapolis to watch the Super Bowl. The cleanup of the city begins months ahead of time — preparing the stadium, increasing security, and beautifying the streets. But what about the issues that cannot be solved with a sweep of the broom?

According to Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute, about 1,567 individuals were homeless in the city of Indianapolis in 2011. While some groups work to alleviate this issue as the Super Bowl nears, others remain skeptical of the timing and their motivations.

“Any and all focus should be on helping these members of the community, … not on making decisions based on trying to give visitors an unrealistic picture of a city,” said Robert Malekoff, associate professor and chair of the sports studies department. “The only acceptable reason to relocate would be if the homeless folks posed some sort of danger to visitors.”

Bob Ray, a homeless man staying at the Wheeler Mission in downtown Indianapolis, expressed similar concerns.

“I’ve heard they’re trying to keep people who look homeless from being around where tourists coming from the Super Bowl are,” Ray said to WTHR 13 Indianapolis. “They’re investing a lot of money in the city and they want it to look all nice and neat.”

However, advocates of relocating the homeless in Indianapolis voice different views and suggest this is to benefit the homeless, not solely to spruce up their city.

“The increased police presence and increased social service presence might enhance the opportunities of people living under bridges or in these encampments to come inside,” said Mike Hurst, director of the Coalition for Homelessness, to the IndyStar.

“The whole point is, obviously, it’s just not healthy for somebody to be out on a corner in the middle of winter,” added Michael Bates, deputy chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Additionally, pro-relocation of homeless groups insist that there would not be any forced relocation. Rather, it would be a voluntary choice the homeless would make.

As the debate continued to surge, the Indianapolis officials affirmed their ultimate decision last week.

“We’ll certainly not be forcing anybody to move,” announced Bates in a statement.

While the decision has been made, this issue will continue to spark debate in future major sport events.