‘No sit or lie’ proposal introduced to Indy councilors

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Indianapolis City-County councilors will consider a proposal limiting where someone can sit or lie on public right of ways downtown.

The proposed ordinance was introduced at Monday night's council meeting. It would prohibit lying down or sitting on a public right of way within the Mile Square from 6 a.m. to midnight.

Some have previously said it's to help curb aggressive panhandling, while others say it would hurt the homeless.

"We have not had the right answer to homelessness in Indianapolis. The right answer is a collection of voice and people coming together," Tyree Coleman said.

Coleman, who said he was homeless as a teenager and now works with those experiencing homelessness, was among those in the crowd opposing the proposal.

The group held signs and turned their back when the proposal was read.

"My concern is resources aren't readily available and penalize them," Linda Allen, who says she is homeless right now, said. "I believe everyone has human rights and decency to be treated well."

"As municipal officials we don't have the ability to criminalize anything, that's the state of Indiana," Councilor Michael McQuillen, who is sponsoring the proposal, said.

The proposed ordinance states it's to promote health, public safety and business within the Mile Square. It includes exclusions, for example,  the homeless when there's no shelter space available. The proposal also states those who are homeless subject to enforcement "should be directed to emergency shelters, community/drug/mental health court, or other interventional services."

The proposal would also exclude the inner ring of Monument Circle since that's state property.

"We've reached out to them to let them know about the process we're going through here, encouraging them to think through their processes as well," McQuillen.

State Senator Jim Merritt said he supports the proposal, but said there's also a need to address the root causes of homelessness.

He said he plans to introduce legislation this session to help, by encouraging more people to go into the medical field to address the opioid epidemic.

"This opioid scourge, it has enveloped Indiana and I think homelessness, a lot of the issues we're seeing on Monument Circle and around Mile Square, are indicative of the scourge we're trying to work towards getting out of," he said.

Next, the proposal will go to a committee for discussion.