LOUISVILLE, KY - Amendments to a pre-existing ordinance passed Metro Council yesterday, sparking outrage in the unhoused outreach community. This ordinance potentially criminalizes many of the elements typically utilized by Louisville's houseless population for survival. Even worse, the original purpose of this bill was actually to PROTECT this vulnerable community.
The ordinance in question (O-263-22) has come a long way since its inception in 2018. Many amendments have been proposed, passed, and denied all while mostly maintaining a care for the houseless community. Councilwoman Nicole George opens by expressing that these amendments have had months of consideration and community input. That the houseless population's wellbeing is at heart, praising the extension of time needed before designating a "campsite," among other points.
Despite Councilwoman George's praise of these amendments, they have caused some major alarm within the outreach community.
“…if we need a study to tell us that removing and stealing all of someone's possessions has a harmful impact on them, our moral compass is broken and we aren't thinking well. It is horrendous.” - My Dog Eats First Outreach Group
Why do we continue to criminalize our unhoused? So we give them a ticket or better you want them jailed, do you really think they have the ability to pay the ticket and once they are gone from that area, exactly who do you expect to refurnish the tents and sleeping bags and supplies? Once again, the volunteers of outreach. How are we supposed to come up with the money? What a thought - the city would reimburse us, better yet, let’s not do it at all? We can stay at status quo. Or better yet let’s put them in a hotel for 9 days and dump them in the same spot you picked them up. Let’s use that money and reimburse the outreach groups on the streets doing the real work. If you really want to see what happens, come ride with us. We can show you true compassion. - Glinda Dale Poole Adkins - The Forgotten Louisville
Looks like our "compassionate" city is showing it's true colors by continuing to penalize those experiencing homelessness. I fear it will only get worse before it gets better after seeing the incoming mayor's transition team. Metro council members need to spend some time learning about homelessness, the root causes and come up with sustainable solutions that don't cause further harm to our most vulnerable citizens. - Maria M. - Outreach Volunteer
“I remember being one of the first outreach workers to roll into the camp that was bulldozed under, back in 2018. It was the impetus for what would become the 21 day notice ordinance. Folks had lost everything from their identification, to the ashes of a loved one. I can’t get my mind around going backwards.” ~ Local Outreach Worker (Anonymous)
Councilman Bill Hollander outlines some of the details of the history of this bill in his address, highlighting some of the past amendments that both passed and failed. He also discusses some of the shortcomings of these amendments.
Some of the primary concerns are associated with the legal definition of "Camping" and how long a person can be there before it's considered a "camp." This timeframe was extended from 48 hours to 72 hours. While Councilwoman George stated this was to give outreach teams more time to act before a notice to clear can be issued, nn the other hand, some have expressed concerns that this just creates more opportunity to bypass the "notice to vacate" timeframe of 21 days that protects houseless camps once they are established.
Another concern is the strict regulations on maintaining clearance for pedestrian traffic on sidewalks. While this sounds good at face value, it's been expressed by Councilman Hollander that the amendment lacks actual accountability to make sure that houseless individuals have an opportunity to obtain their possessions if their camp is cleared.
Yet another concern is the limitations put on individuals sleeping in their cars, potentially putting some of the most vulnerable people in even more precarious positions with further financial stress through Metro fines.
Many other council members utilized their time express discontent with the newest amendments. Councilman Jecorey Arthur even moved, with a second from Councilwoman Cassie Chambers-Armstrong, to table the vote until the Greenberg administration had taken over, but the motion failed to pass.
Ultimately the amendments passed with a 16-8 vote in favor.
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