CHIP — City-County Council proposal to discourage panhandling to be heard Monday evening

City-County Council proposal to discourage panhandling to be heard Monday evening,” Matt McKinney, Katie Cox, RTV6 September 24 2018

The Indianapolis City-County Council will hear a proposal Monday evening that is designed to discourage panhandling in downtown Indianapolis.

The ordinance, which will be introduced by Republican Minority Leader Michael McQuillen and Republican Councilor Susie Cordi, would make a new rule that no one can sit or lie on a city street or sidewalk within the mile square between 6 a.m. and midnight.

There are 10 exceptions to the ordinance as it’s currently written:

  1. Sitting or lying down on the surface of a public right-of-way due to a medical emergency;
  2. Using a wheelchair, walker, or similar device as the result of a disability;
  3. Operating or patronizing a commercial establishment conducted in the public right-of-way pursuant to a use permit;
  4. Participating in or attending a parade, festival, performance, rally, demonstration, meeting, or similar event conducted in the public right-of-way pursuant to and in compliance with a street use or other applicable permit;
  5. Sitting on a fixed chair or bench designed primarily for the purpose of sitting, located on the surface of a public right-of-way, supplied by a public agency or by the abutting private property owner;
  6. Sitting in line for goods or services unless the person or person’s possessions impede the ability of pedestrians to travel along the length of the public right-of-way or enter a doorway or other entrance alongside the public right-of-way;
  7. Sitting within a bus stop zone while waiting for public or private transportation;
  8. Who is a child seated in a stroller;
  9. Who is homeless during a timeframe when shelter space is unavailable; or
  10. Who is engaging in constitutionally protected expressive activities which would otherwise be restricted by the limitations set forth herein.

The person must be notified by a law enforcement officer and must be given “a reasonable amount of time to comply” with the ordinance. Any homeless people in violation will be directed to emergency shelters, community/drug/mental health court, or other similar services.

Officials say on any given day in Marion County, there are 1,600 homeless individuals on the streets and many of them remain hidden to the general public.

Since April 2018, seven homeless camps have been closed, each evicting more than 100 people who were living there.

Indianapolis also ranks 14th in the nation when it comes to evictions.

“It seems like it’s ramped up recently,” McQuillen said. “I’ve had a lot of people who’ve reached out to me and said they fear for their safety. They can’t walk to their office or to lunch or whatever without being harassed by folks, so I really think it’s becoming a public safety issue. I think the time is now to address that issue.”

The Wheeler Mission, Horizon House, The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention Program, the Indianapolis Chamber and many elected officials are vetting the ordinance.

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The city wants to launch a new employment program for people who panhandle or sleep outside; spend $150,000 on rental assistance for recipients of housing vouchers; and support services offered by the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, such as help with past-due utility bills.