Homeless advocate leaves Jeffersonville task force in protest of camping ban
Paul Stensrud says the city's homeless population has been unfairly targeted.
Wednesday, June 18th 2014, 11:04 am EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An advocate for the homeless has left his role at the Jeffersonville Homelessness Task Force in protest of a recent camping ban passed by city council.
The ordinance bans people from camping on public properties that don't allow it and private property without written permission.
"The way the law is written now, if you're just wrapped up in a blanket, you're going to be breaking the law. If you were in a sleeping bag, that is considered a temporary shelter, you're breaking the law," said Paul Stensrud, Director of Exit 0 Ministry.
Stensrud fears those living on the city streets will have no place to go. The ordinance states, "Camp means to reside or dwell temporarily in a place, with shelter, and conduct activities of daily living..." It goes on to define shelter as, "any tent, tarpaulin, lean-to, sleeping bag, bedroll, blankets..."
"Why all of a sudden is it needed? Because of a bridge. Because of the beautification being done here in downtown Jeffersonville," Stensrud told WDRB.
He says the city's homelessness task force wanted city council to ban camping just around the big four bridge. Instead, it will apply to the entire city. Stensrud, who was a volunteer on that task force has since resigned. He says city council isn't listening to the experts.
The ordinance was drafted by the city attorney's office and voted into law by city council Monday. "It's not a homeless issue, it's an ordinance that is for the protection of the general public from any unauthorized camping on a public property," said City Attorney Les Merkley.
He says the ordinance is about public health, safety and welfare. It's already on the books in other, larger cities around the country. He also says there are safeguards in place to help people in need.
"The police officer or law enforcement officer is obligated to try to provide that assistance before removing or citing the individual for violating the ordinance," Merkley said.
The ordinance states the officer must also issue an oral and written warning to the person who is in violation.
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