SPOKANE, Wash. - Controversy is already swirling around a new proposal to tackle homelessness, and that bill hasn't even been brought before the city council yet.
The bill acts as Spokane's version of a so-called "homeless bill of rights," a series of similar bills proposed around the country to provide more civil liberties to the homeless. A screenshot of the bill was posted on the Spokane Police Guild Facebook page, and immediately sparked support and outrage. This new bill would also make the enforcement of any laws that go against the ordinance illegal.
"I think that it pits our law enforcement against our citizens," said candidate for city council president Phil Tyler. "And we've worked hard in our community to build relatioships with our law enforcement."
Among other things, this bill says it would not allow harassment or intimidation of homeless people who are resting or setting up shelters in a non-obstructive way in outdoor spaces. It also says that if the city of spokane were to dispose of anyone's belongings, the city would be financially responsible. Restrooms and hygiene facilities would also be required to be open to the public.
"Everybody's losing out on this and here's an opportunity for us as a city to step up and make sure that we have adequate facilities and places for people to go," Burke said during Monday's committee meeting.
The bill has sparked a fierce debate online. One Facebook user who supports the bill wrote "Nothing in this screenshot appears to change dumping laws. It is incredibly important to protect what little personal effects people living without homes may own."
But, Tyler said this legislation won't help.
"I think that there are solutions to our issues that are here in Spokane. We just need to bring those parties to the table and not craft legislation unilaterally," he said.
City Council President Ben Stuckart said he does not believe this has any council support. In a statement he wrote: "we should be focused on solutions one by one, not an ordinance that undermines current laws on the books."
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