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Homeless camp near Japanese Friendship Garden

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - One of Idaho Falls' most well-known parks has become a refuge for a group of homeless.

For several days, a group of people has camped under the gazebo at the Japanese Friendship Garden on the Greenbelt. The floor is dotted with towels, blankets and lawn chairs as these individuals try to escape from the hot sun.

City leadership say they are aware of the growing homeless problem in Idaho Falls, but there is not much they can do.

"The city is aware that there are individuals that are experiencing homelessness within our city, but there's not a whole lot that we can do about that," City of Idaho Falls PIO Erik Grossarth said. "When we open up a public space, whether that be a park or a sidewalk, if people want to be there, they can be in those places."

Experts say there are several problems that lead to homelessness, for example; inflation, divorce or bad luck.

The city does have several local resources and shelters to help homeless individuals. However, some people would rather stay in a camp than turn to the shelter.

"There's a lot of a big chunk of the community working on it, but you're always going to have people who decide, 'I don't want help.' 'I don't I don't want to follow your rules.' 'I don't want to stay sober.' 'I don't want to be plugged into society,'" Idaho Falls Rescue Mission director Tyler Perkins said. "That small population, for whatever reason those are, then they're going to be the ones that you see camped along the greenbelt or other places in town."

The shelter provides resources to help individuals who want help working their way out of homelessness. But they'd never turn a blind eye to those in need.

"Our doors are open 24 hours for them. They can come even if they don't want to stay. They can get a sleeping bag. So they're not freezing food, so they're not starving, you know, hygiene kits to stay somewhat clean and healthy. And so even for that population, we provide services to keep them," Perkins said.

The city asks that we remember these people are in a very difficult situation - for whatever reason...

"These are people, they are individuals that are experiencing challenges. And Idaho Falls is a community that is helpful to other people," Grossarth said. "I know there's a lot of times that people have concerns with homeless individuals and the parks. But the real response, I think, is just going to these resources, seeing how you can help."

Article Topic Follows: Idaho Falls
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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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