Rochester City Council approves motion to consider ordinance from RPD on camping in public places
UPDATE: By a 4-2 vote, the city council voted to approve the motion of an ordinance to ban camping on public property.
The city attorney will write up a finalized version for the city council to discuss at a future meeting.
(ABC 6 News) – An ongoing issue in Rochester, the homeless community trying to find a place to stay. The issue reached a boiling point as residents expressed discomfort and frustration with camps set up in public places.
To address the issue, Rochester Police Department proposed a city ordinance that would ban daytime camping in public places but both advocates and members of the city council have expressed concern over the proposal.
Advocates of the homeless community say these camps are often the only option for a majority of people experiencing homeless in Rochester.
“72 shelter beds that was identified by the county, a 72 bed system for 177 people who do not have shelter,” said Dan Fifield, co-founder of the Landing. “They counted in July, they did a three day count at night, of unsheltered individuals in Rochester, Minnesota. 72 bed shelter system for 177 people who did not have shelter.”
The campers have troubled some residents as they’ve communicated with city leaders their discomfort of homeless people living in these spaces.
RPD was not available for comment. According to councilmember Patrick Keane, RPD needs to reassure that the proposed ordinance would operate under a city resolution passed in 2014.
“The key policy for me going into this is that our public spaces remain public and available to the whole community,” Keane said.
Members of the city council have looked at the department’s proposal with the aim of making sure its legally sound.
“And they’re looking at, as they do, the legality of this. Are they in good standing to do this? There’s crazy amount of law across our country in different cities about what’s happened as far as banning people from public spaces. Usually sidewalks and that, and then courts have come back and said, “You can’t do that, unless you have a place to take them,” said Keane.
And it would seem the department is acting on those concerns.
Records obtained by ABC 6 News show that RPD has looked into similar bans already in place across the country to make sure the proposal meets legal standards.
As part of that effort, the department amended the first version of the proposal eliminating a ban on daytime panhandling as a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits cities from placing limits on panhandling.
Still, advocates like Dan Fifield say the ordinance, wouldn’t address the key issues people experiencing homeless go through.
“A lot of people say why don’t they just go out and get a job. It’s not anywhere near that easy,” said Fifield. “There’s a lot of trauma, a lot of mental health issues involved, they just need a chance to reset. And to pass them all over town and uproot camps is not the solution to the problem, it just makes the problem worse.”