Proposed ordinance would outlaw sleeping on city sidewalks in Downtown Roanoke

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 5:04 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The City of Roanoke will consider an ordinance making it illegal for people to camp on city sidewalks, specifically in the downtown service district.

See the full ordinance below this article.

This comes after the city noticed an increase in homeless people sleeping outdoors.

Officials spearheading this ordinance say it’s a balance of compassion for the homeless and making sure there are housing options available to them, as well as a practical solution to keep downtown a desirable, safe, and accessible place to live and work.

This new law would make it a Class 4 misdemeanor to sleep on city sidewalks in the downtown service district.

Despite there being plenty of room in local shelters, according to the Homeless Assistance Team, there are currently about 250 homeless people, and an estimated 5% of them are unsheltered.

HAT believes this was initially due to COVID and addiction rates. Matt Crookshank, the Human Services Administrator in charge of TAP, says the organization did start distributing tents due to the reduced capacity at many shelters, but that is no longer the case.

44 people were counted living in tents, as of July.

It’s an issue that downtown residents say is becoming too burdensome and dangerous for them to deal with themselves.

N.J. Kilby spoke at Monday’s council meeting. Kilby lives downtown and says defecation, break-ins, and vandalism have ensued as the result of an encampment near the colorful townhomes below the Gainsboro bridge.

City Manager Bob Cowell says they’re asking for a decision on this ordinance at the council’s first meeting in December.

It is still unknown how the city would plan to enforce this proposed ordinance, but Cowell says they’d expect compliance instead of resistance.

The law could be enacted within about a month if it is approved.

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