INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — City leaders addressed downtown homelessness Tuesday with two separate initiatives: a new spending plan and a rejection for a proposed “no sit, no lie” ordinance at a City-County Council committee meeting.
Critics of the proposed ordinance — which aimed to reduce homelessness and panhandling by prohibiting sitting or lying in public places under most circumstances within the Mile Square area — packed the meeting room.
At least 30 people held yellow signs reading “No War On The Poor!” and “People Need Homes Not Fines” as members of the council’s rules and public policy committee carried on with its regularly scheduled meeting.
Hours earlier, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety had announced plans to allocate additional funding to target issues related to chronic local homelessness.
The proposal calls for $500,000 to “increase visibility and police presence in areas experiencing a high occurrence of aggressive panhandling, as well as provide services and outreach for those experiencing homelessness,” according to the mayor’s office.
Up to $250,000 would go toward permanent housing solutions — serving an estimated 500 people each year, according to the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, also known by its acronym CHIP — as well as direct services for homeless people downtown.
The remaining $250,000 would be spent on heightened law enforcement in certain areas downtown.
People experiencing homelessness around Monument Circle said they have rejected legislation and narratives that criminalized the needy or misconstrued them as “aggressive panhandlers.”
“I’m lucky if I make maybe $25” each day on the streets, said Rocky Carter, a veteran who told News 8 he had been collecting money from passersby “on and off” for three years to supplement the $265 he received each month in disability benefits.
“If the (‘no sit, no lie’ ordinance) does pass, then they’re going to have a more serious problem,” Carter said. “They’re going to have more robberies. They’re going to have more people running up to you and demanding you give them money.”
A woman who said she had been on the streets for more than a decade told News 8 she has rarely accepted money and more concerned with finding shelter.
“I’ve been trying to get in (to a local shelter) for almost a year,” Alisha Scott said. “But every morning at 9 a.m., they’re always full. I have nowhere else to go. I was forced to find a tent and now I’m sleeping out in the woods, praying every night that it snows or that it’s below 30 degrees that I don’t freeze to death.”
The mayor said the city remained committed to “ending homelessness over the long run,” but conceded it was a “prospect easier said than done.”
The proposed “no sit, no lie” ordinance failed to pass a committee vote, City-County Council member Michael McQuillen announced Tuesday night. The committee voted to send the ordinance to the full ordinance with a negative recommendation.