Discussion on ‘Homeless Bill of Rights’ postponed

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 27, 2015) - A proposal that aims to give certain protections to the homeless is being postponed. The Rules and Public Policy Committee was set to discuss the proposed ordinance during a meeting Tuesday night. Instead the committee will take it up on February 24.

Councilor member LeRoy Robinson introduced the proposal in September of 2014. The language calls for a 'Homeless Bill of Rights' guaranteeing protection against discrimination. It would also require the city to provide resources if a homeless camp is dismantled. The proposal would also establish an engagement center, a place to go where homeless people fighting addiction could get off the streets and connect with services.

"Those that are homeless have been discriminated against for so long and they need additional protections that the city guarantees and the only way to guarantee that is to pass legislation," said LeRoy Robinson, an at-large member (D).

Council republicans are concerned about the financial and legal implications of the proposed ordinance. Councillor Jeff Miller is working with others in his party to come up with a list of suggestions. Miller said he is concerned about the wording but believes the concept is powerful.

"We have been looking at what are some suggestions we can do, how can we take what's there work with it and find something that meets everyone's needs, first and foremost take care of the homeless needs but is also good for the city, doesn't put the city in any legal issues," said Miller.

Councillor Robinson believes an engagement center would cost $700,000 a year for the next two years. The ordinance would also require the city to store a homeless person's belongings if the city shuts down a camp. Robinson estimates the storage fees would total $17,000 a year.

The initial proposal referenced a specific incident where the city broke up the Davidson Street homeless camp in August 2013.

"If the city does not discriminate against anyone that is homeless we should be fine, the issue is that the city is worried because they know past practices, there have been past practices where the city has discriminated against those that are homeless and that's the fear," said Robinson.

A spokesperson with Mayor Greg Ballard's office said the city is concerned about the proposal but waiting to see how it plays out in committee. According to city estimates there are about 1,800 homeless individuals in Marion County. Another homeless count is being held Wednesday.