A new proposal from Republicans on the Indianapolis City-County Council is designed to deter downtown panhandling. But critics say it goes too far.
The proposal says no one can sit or lie on a city street or sidewalk within the Mile Square between 6 a.m. and midnight. Its backers, including Republican Councilor Susie Cordi, say panhandlers there are creating safety concerns and hurting business.
“Monument Circle and the Mile Square need to be enjoyable places for residents and visitors to walk, do business, and see the city," Cordi says in a statement.
The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, or CHIP, opposes the ordinance. Interim Executive Director, Caleb Sutton says the city does not have enough shelter, especially during the day, to accommodate the number of people it would displace.
"This would criminalize homelessness," Sutton says. "And the ordinance does not get at the root causes of homelessness, and it does not provide solutions for housing and shelter."
CHIP estimates there are over 1,600 individuals experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis every day.
Minority Leader Michael McQuillen, who worked on the ordinance, says he reached out to CHIP while developing the ordinance and never heard back.
“The devil’s always in the details, and I’m open to conversation to make sure that we do adequately protect our homeless neighbors as well as work on the panhandling issue,” McQuillen says.
Sutton confirms that CHIP did not work on developing the ordinance, but did not explain why.
McQuillen says he hopes to work with CHIP and other advocacy groups as the proposal moves through the Council. He says the city could partner with churches and other faith-based groups to create more shelter, if needed.
The proposal will be introduced during the City-County Council’s meeting on Sept. 24.
You can read the full proposal below: