Archive for Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Downtown camping at issue

January 4, 2006

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The beauty and appeal of downtown Lawrence needs to be protected from people camping on sidewalks or in alleyways, city commissioners said Tuesday.

Commissioners in a 4-1 vote gave initial approval to an ordinance that would make it illegal to camp on any public right-of-way in the downtown area. Commissioners took up the ordinance after City Commissioner Mike Amyx - a downtown business owner - said he saw people sleeping in doorways, sidewalks and alleys on a weekly basis.

"Downtown Lawrence truly is the jewel of our community, and as we work to maintain it, I just don't believe camping on the sidewalks is an appropriate deal," Amyx said.

Commissioner Mike Rundle cast the lone dissenting vote. He said he wanted the city's new Community Commission on Homelessness to review the ordinance and provide a recommendation to city commissioners. He also said he thought the ordinance would do little to help solve the core problems of homelessness.

Two advocates for the homeless agreed. Loring Henderson, director of the Lawrence Community Shelter, and Helen Hartnett, a professor at Kansas University's School of Social Welfare, expressed concerns about the ordinance.

"It won't resolve the situation," Henderson told commissioners. "It may move someone from a certain spot, but it won't resolve it."

The ordinance also will have an impact on people who aren't homeless. City staff members confirmed that the new ordinance would make it illegal for people to camp outside Liberty Hall for concert tickets.

Doug Redding, a manager at Liberty Hall, said he didn't think the new law would greatly affect the venue's operations. But he said he thought it would be a pain nonetheless.

"I think it is going to open up a can of worms," Redding said. "I don't understand it because everybody's pretty harmless, even the homeless people."

Amyx said he had received calls from several downtown business owners, in addition to observing several situations himself. Amyx said part of his decision stemmed from the fact the city provides funding for two homeless shelters in town.

"I had a hard time of doing one thing without doing the other," Amyx said of the ordinance.

Other commissioners said they agreed that the ordinance wouldn't solve the core problems of homelessness, but would give the city another tool in protecting downtown.

Commissioners last year rejected an ordinance that would have made it illegal to camp in city parks. This ordinance only addresses property that is zoned C-3 commercial. That essentially includes all property along New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts streets between Sixth and 11th streets.

Like all ordinances, it won't become official until it is approved on second reading. Commissioners agreed to delay the second reading of the ordinance until Jan. 24 to give the homeless commission time to comment, if it desires.

In other business, commissioners:

¢ rescheduled a study session with the Lawrence Public Library board for 9 a.m. on Feb. 15 at the library, 707 Vt. Commissioners canceled a study session with the group scheduled for today at the request of library board members who said they needed more time to prepare. The meeting is to discuss the possible expansion of the library.

¢ approved a site plan for expansion of Southwest Junior High School, 2511 Inverness Drive. The 39,000-square-foot expansion was approved by voters as part of the last school bond election. It will allow the temporary classroom trailers to be removed from the site.

¢ agreed to send a tax application for Berry Plastics to the Public Incentives Review Committee for recommendation. No date was set for the group to review the application.

Comments

lunacydetector 9 years, 8 months ago

well.......it sounds like the parks are still available for any visiting anarchist conventions.....gotta protect the base.

.....but, does the new homeless ordinance apply to other parts of lawrence? is it safe to assume it will NOT?...... so everyone not in the downtown should expect some passed out drunk sleeping on their sidewalk in the near future?

someone tell me this ain't so.

Ragingbear 9 years, 8 months ago

Correct, this ordinance only applies to disctrict/zone C3, which comprises the downtown area. I don't know the exact borders, but it is rather small. And yes, expect to see the outer fringe areas inundated with more people camping illegally.

Ceallach 9 years, 8 months ago

I was actually at the point of commending the city comission when I too realized that "we the people" are not being protected from this blight, only the businesses downtown will be spared. I should have know the commission would find a way to half@ss the ordinance!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 8 months ago

Do you want an ordinance that will make it illegal for the kids to camp out in the yard? Or one that will make it illegal for a couple of neighbors to have a conversation on the sidewalk?

Or should we just make homelessness illegal?

veggies 9 years, 8 months ago

It seems the purpose of this ordinance is just to put homelessness out of sight/out of mind. If we don't see the problem, we don't have to deal with it, right? And yes, we do have two shelters, but obviously the people who make that arguement have never bothered to visit one of them. If they had, they would have seen how overcrowded they are.

Linda Endicott 9 years, 8 months ago

Well, it's obvious that Christmas is over and the Christmas spirit has been conveniently put away for another year...referring to homeless people as "this blight"...

The hard-asses are back out of the woodwork...

wonderhorse 9 years, 8 months ago

ragingbear

Now you are scaring me. You are writing in a fashion that was normal for you, originally. Are you going to go back to the writing class and start getting misunderstandable again?

ModSquadGal 9 years, 8 months ago

Okay, there is a problem with homelessness, and maybe the shelters are overcrowded, but that doesn't mean the solution is to let people sleep on the streets of our downtown. There have already been violent incidents and it would seem to me they will only escalate if we don't get to the heart of the problem.

GiveMeABreak 9 years, 8 months ago

To Ceallach: I hope that nothing ever happens to you or any member of your family - say a lost job, the job itself having been a paycheck to paycheck sort of gig to begin with. Or untreated addiction. Or serious mental illness. Or a level of disenfranchisement that results in an individual choosing to pull away from society. Because then you or your family member can be called "blight" by some other nazi sort. Calling a human being "blight" is exactly in the spirit of Hitler, Mussolini, etc. People are people. People have problems, sometimes of their own making, sometimes due to circumstances. Regardless of the situation, THEY ARE PEOPLE and whatever your spiritual position (NOT RELIGIOUS), all people are part of creation and worthy of dignity and respect simply by virtue of being human. I have personally been homeless. I'm not the sort you would expect. I have advanced degrees, had a house, car, a great career - working with the homeless ironically, the whole nine yards. Within a span of 8 months, I lost everything because I decided to "try" a drug that I became addicted to. It was both humbling and humiliating. People refuse to look at you or speak to you and I always managed to maintain hygiene. The way some of my homeless brothers and sisters who were not as fortunate as I in that regard experienced outright harassment. I guess my point is to remember that, while you may not want to see homeless people camped out on Mass or anywhere else in the city, until we have a just society where treatment is freely available, both addiction and mental health, until we have income supports and housing options that afford reasonable dignity, we will still see people camped out. And it's each of our responsibility to do something positive to help out if that upsets us!

GiveMeABreak 9 years, 8 months ago

By the way, I'm clean and sober and back working in my profession as a productive member of society. Only because I moved to KC, MO where there was free treatment available and housing options that offered support and assistance. Now I am pretty much back to where I was when the whole drama started. So it can work, like I said, if appropriate supports are available.

GiveMeABreak 9 years, 8 months ago

Offtotheright: you missed my point entirely and you are fairly clearly defensive about what I said so I'm guessing I hit a nerve somewhere. Yes, I chose to originally ingest the drug but, assuming you believe in science (which is a big assumption in the current KS climate...but I digress), addiction is an actual disease over which the person suffering (YES, SUFFERING!) it has no control without treatment, just like all other diseases. So yes, I did "choose" to try the drug but I didn't choose to become an addict any more than people choose cancer, diabetes, etc. And the point I was making is that if there were adequate services and supports available in the Lawrence community, the position posited by the city commish would be more tenable because then people would TRULY have a choice as to whether or not they want to remain homeless. I'm not talking about a few shelters and free meal sites, I'm talking about drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services that do not require the "perfect patient" as does Bert Nash, quality medical and dental care without shame. I'm here to tell you from both academic, work, and personal experience, fewer than 5% would choose it! And it is my DREAM to own a home in Lawrence and open it to homeless individuals trying to get their lives back together. But folks like you would probably fight me every step of the way, 'NOT IN MY BACKYARD', right?

girly 9 years, 8 months ago

I don't know the answer to the homeless problem, but I have to say that last summer I had to leave the public library because the body odor of the homeless that were sitting around napping in the library was overwhelming. I feel for them, but they are also infringing on the rights of others.....

GiveMeABreak 9 years, 8 months ago

I read the Godwin's law post and I don't ascribe to that belief. I apologize to the group if my use of the word "nazi" seemed offensive. Remember, however, the nazi's were offended by certain groups of people. They outlawed their presence in German society. (akin to anti-camping laws or referring to actual human beings as blight - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blight_%28disambiguation%29 for the meanings of blight, none of which refers to human beings). Their plan was to do away with the human "blight" in their society and what a nightmare they created. I stand by my use of the word based on these and other historical facts that are parallel to this issue. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi

Ceallach 9 years, 8 months ago

GiveMeABreak: give me a break!! I have been unemployed and members of my family still have problems with drug addiction, and I was raised by an alcoholic father and a co-dependant mother, so you don't know what I do or do not know about the human condition. The problems of our society are very clear to me. There are many agencies in Lawrence dedicated to providing services to homeless citizens -- however, they will never be anything except an easy mooch until the homeless citizens start taking a little responsiblity for their lives and actually try to become a productive part of our community. I applaud your efforts to do so and I am glad you found the services that enabled you to get back on your feet. But there is no excuse for people to sleep in public and require that others step over or around them to go into a shop. Nor is there any excuse for men to try to intimidate women into giving them money on the street. I have been approached more than once, downtown, by men who end up berating and cursing me because I will not give them money for food or coffee. There may be REASONS but there is no EXCUSES. You are now belittling anyone who disagrees with you, accusing me of not looking at it from the homeless perspective -- that works two ways GiveMe, perhaps you could try to see it from the other side as well.

Ceallach 9 years, 8 months ago

Oh yeah, and concerning

"Calling a human being "blight" is exactly in the spirit of Hitler, Mussolini, etc."

That is not true. You saying something doesn't make it so. You really should read more history.

dviper 9 years, 8 months ago

GiveMeABreak - Actually, the neighborhood and the City of Lawrence will 'fight you all the way' if you follow your DREAM and buy a house in a single family zoned neighborhood and open it to the homeless. The current city commission (except Amyx) changed the law a few years ago to allow only 2 unrelated people to live in the same house. This law was suppose to protect our single family neighborhoods from blight.

Ceallach 9 years, 8 months ago

consumer1: Good point. Perhaps all those posters with bleeding hearts should post their addresses and allow their property to become "safe havens" for the homeless from the local Nazis. Hasn't anyone else seen the tents, bags, cardboard boxes, etc., that fill our downtown most nights?

Blight (urban), the term for abandoned, derelict, or severely neglected buildings and lots; slums.

GMAB, if you had read my post with an open mind you would have seen that I did not call the people a blight, just the cr@p they strow around and sleep in. If it is allowed our downtown area will be nothing but "abandoned, derelict, or severely neglected buildings and lots; slums."

badger 9 years, 8 months ago

Well, ottr, that's certainly a definitive rebuke.

Nice to see you all have so much love for newbies, there. Makes a body feel downright cozy round here.

GMAB, the thing is that a lot of people who do have direct experience with the homeless get a sort of blindness based in, "If you had seen what I have seen, you would think what I think, so since you don't think what I think, you must not have seen the sort of things I have."

However, a lot of people can look at the same thing and come away with different perceptions of it. You look at someone who doesn't want the homeless sleeping on his lawn, and you see a fascist eradication of people who make us uncomfortable, of those we don't want around. Another person looks at the homeless man living in his alley, using it as bed, bathroom, and fireplace, and worries about his children's safety (human waste is pretty toxic), the safety of his home (businesses downtown have been damaged by fires set in their doorways; what would happen if a fire set under the eaves of a wood house got hit with a gust of wind?), and about whether there would be trash and glass in his yard.

Most homeless people didn't choose to be homeless, but most of them are there because of the choices they made, and getting indignant and accusing others of lacking perspective or compassion doesn't win you any advocates.

neopolss 9 years, 8 months ago

The only problem I have with the homeless is when they turn down shelters in favor of keeping their alcohal. Some responsibility is still required, even if the help is free. That said, this ordinance will do little to nothing other than give the police larger powers to harass individuals. This ordinance is a joke. What's the punishment? A fine? Time in jail? Neither is a very big deterrant to someone who a) has nowhere to be and b) has no money. What do they plan to do? Take away their aluminum can collection?

Here's a thought though. Had Germany won the war, the Nazi party would have been heros. It's funny how little our moral compass really plays into it, and how much winning and losing does. Had Germany won, they would have experienced newly built highways, advances in medicine, structured school and after school programs, as well as removal of everything "bad" from society, including homelessness, homosexuals, dissidents, and lawbreakers. I wouldn't put it past a few individuals who secretly wish all the current homelessness and homosexuals were rounded up overnight. But I'll stop with the devil's advocate.

mztrendy 9 years, 8 months ago

ok lets get real people. Those people aren't "camping" downtown, they are living there. And that isn't right. You know, I feel sorry for those people too, I'm not heartless but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. I have a three year old who constantly wants to know why that man is laying in front of Weavers. And why at the old fashioned parade was he laying in the middle of the sidewalk? If he really is mentally ill, then he needs to be somewhere where people can take care of him. Make him a ward of the state. He's obviously a threat to himself, and who knows who else.

wonderhorse 9 years, 8 months ago

Ragingbear

You want this one? Or should I?

badger 9 years, 8 months ago

I'll take a shot at it, if you don't mind, wonderhorse:

mztrendy, many homeless people do belong in institutions, and should be there for their own safety, independent of the effect their institutionalization would have on our own safety.

However, the funds aren't there, the facilities aren't there, and the services aren't there. Many of these people need treatment, and them getting treatment is highly preferable to any other option.

If you have a way to create that space for them, believe me, I'm all ears.

badger 9 years, 8 months ago

There's always a however:

Now, there is the pitfall here that it's easy to say that someone who lies in front of Weaver's mumbling about apple trees should probably be under professional care.

But where do you draw the line? Forced rehab for homeless people with chemical dependency? Mandatory counseling? There are a number of people who simply cope best with life if they are homeless.

I think the real problem is not, "How do we eliminate the class of people without homes?" but actually, "How do we ensure that people who want to live as part of society are able to do so, and people who choose not to are also able to do so, without the expression of each group's rights, freedoms, and dignity being infringed on by the expressions of the other?"

If Hobo Bob (Pleather Bob's cousin) wants to ride the rails and travel the country unburdened with an overabundance of property, he should be able to, so long as he doesn't infringe on Suburban Bob's rights and freedoms in the process - rights that include a certain expectation of personal safety, respect for ownership and upkeep of property, and access to goods, services, and places without harassment or endangerment.

Ceallach 9 years, 8 months ago

So many Bobs :):) But don't forget "I don't want to take my meds because I miss feeling omnipotent" Bob.

Sorry TOB and omb -- you know you'll always be our favorite Bobs -- although I was ROFLMAO when I read about Hobo Bob -- Pleather Bob's cousin!!!!!!!! Good one badger. Get ready to be called an insensitive nazi.

Jeremy Lichtenauer 9 years, 8 months ago

In typical Boog fashion, the trusty Mayor made a motion and then voted not to accept the ordinance and refer it to the homeless advisory board.

His motion was defeated.

He then voted for the ordinance when the motion was made by Commish Amyx. What side of he fence does Boog sit on???

Ceallach 9 years, 8 months ago

Good question Jeremy, my guess is that it changes with his mood. What a dodo, or dada, or whatever. . .

Godot 9 years, 8 months ago

"What side of he fence does Boog sit on???"

All of them, like the good anarchist that Boog is. Chaos is his goal. He is only comfortable when everyone else is not.

lunacydetector 9 years, 8 months ago

if some kids want to camp out in the yard, by all means they should be able to. if some homeless want to camp out in someone else's yard - that is trespassing. someone please correct me if i am wrong but -if the homeless person wants to camp out on your sidewalk - the way it stands right now, the homeowner has no say at all.

wonderhorse 9 years, 8 months ago

Multi

What youth soccer fields? YSI? I've never seen a soccer game that lasted after 10 pm, and I have never seen a game started before 7 am, and I haven't seen loud speakers used. Maybe you are talking about the football fields that are also at YSI. Or maybe the softball/baseball fields.

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