Pokémon GO displaces Cedar Rapids homeless

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Caleb Terry puts a couple hours each day into Pokémon GO. He's grabbed enough of the digital creatures to make it to level 21. He loves it.

"Growing up, played Pokémon,” said Terry. “You got to play it."

Terry isn't alone.

After coming out, July 7th, the game swept the nation. Apple said Pokémon GO was the most downloaded app ever in its first week.

In Cedar Rapids, one of the most popular places to play the game, which necessitates users to be in specific places, is downtown. Greene Square, specifically.

"I never came out here before the game came out," said Terry.

Even when the sun goes down, the players don't stop. Often 20 plus in the Greene Square area, according to some Pokémon GO fans KCRG talked to.

"You have to see it to believe it,” said Dusty Noble, who monitors housing insecurity in Cedar Rapids for Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, a local nonprofit. “Three o'clock in the morning, there are just kids everywhere downtown."

Noble said that's creating a Poké-problem. He said all those Pokémon players downtown at night have started pushing homeless out of the area, who often sleep in Greene Square, on nearby benches or under bridges.

Noble helped with a count last week and said there's a noticeable difference compared to previous.

"We're finding more of them are spreading to the north and south of downtown,” said Noble. “Just a little bit away from all the ruckus and the noise."

Homeless are being found at campgrounds. On bike trails. In one case, the garage of an apartment complex.

Noble said homeless overall are just tougher to spot.

"We don't know how many are out there,” he said. "That's such a tremendous piece of assessing our social services. How things are doing. Where we are at and where the gaps are."

Perhaps when the Poké-phenomenon passes, homeless populations will return to normal in the downtown area. But, for now, players have got digital creatures to catch.

Something that also likely played a role in changing downtown homeless populations, the city cracked down on some camps in the area. HACAP reported some of those people were able to find housing.