CHIP — Councilor’s panhandling reduction plan irks homeless advocates

Councilor’s panhandling reduction plan irks homeless advocates,” Tim McNicholas, WISHTV, September 16, 2018.

An Indianapolis City-County councilor said he’s come with up with a plan to reduce downtown panhandling, but some homeless advocates say his plan is bad for the homeless community.

Councilor Mike McQuillen wants to ban people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks, streets or alleys in the Mile Square area. His proposal calls for the rule to be enforced between 6 a.m. and midnight. People would still be able to lie on sidewalks for six hours overnight.

“We’re very concerned about people being harassed by panhandlers,” McQuillen said.

McQuillen said, under the proposal, officers would offer to take homeless people to shelters if the shelters have space. The new proposal states that the rule would not be enforced for homeless people when shelters are full.

“If they’re obviously a panhandler, he or she (the officer) would hopefully move them along to somewhere else,” McQuillen said. “If someone refused to move, they could be ticketed.”

Rocky Crister is a homeless man who says it’s not unusual for him to take a seat downtown. He said he’ll sometimes “hold a sign and shake a cup.” He wants to keep being able to sit.

“If you’re homeless, what do they expect? For you to be on on your feet the whole time?” Crister said. “Where are you going to go?”

Caleb Sutton, interim executive director at the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) Interim Executive Director, said he is opposed to the plan as it’s currently written.

He released a statement saying in part: “Currently, our City does not have the capacity to house individuals experiencing homelessness during the day, given the fact most shelters only open in the evening.”

“It kind of vilifies, criminalizes the homeless persons,” said William Bumphus, the men’s shelter director at Wheeler Mission. “It’s something that I didn’t want to get behind or agree with.”

The proposal lists 10 exceptions. People would still be allowed to sit along a parade route, sit on a bench and seat their children on strollers. The proposal allows for people sitting in wheelchairs, people sitting or lying while suffering medical emergencies and people waiting in line for “goods or services.”

Alexa Braun lives and works downtown.

“It would be nice to not get asked, ‘Hey, do you have a cigarette?’ or, ‘Hey, do you have a dollar?'” Braun said. “That happens every night.”

Councilor Jared Evans declined an interview but said in a text message he does not expect fellow Democrats to support the plan as it was written on Friday night.

“I’m sure as it’s written now is not going to be the final form,” McQuillen said. “I am open to that conversation.”

News 8 reached out to Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office to see if he supports the plan and hadnot heard back on Friday night.

McQuillen said he planned to introduce the plan to the council at its Sept. 24 meeting.

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