Parkersburg City Council votes to adopt a ban on camping on public grounds
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Parkersburg City Council officially adopted an ordinance that bans camping on public property. Violators will face fines from anywhere between $100 and $500.
Multiple people on both sides of the issue got up to voice their opinion on the public camping ban in a passionate public forum.
A supporter of the legislation said, “So for us to say that this isn’t fair to the homeless or whatever, it’s not fair to the homeowners, it’s not fair to - whether it’s the city park or public property or residential property without permission these folks have no business being there.”
An opposer against the legislation said, “Rather than working with service providers to come up with better solutions, it appears you’ve decided on a short-term fix that could be legally questionable and morally problematic and then it penalizes, some would say persecutes, the most vulnerable members of our society.”
A supporter brought up safety issues he believed the legislation will prevent.
“There’s going to be sex, there’s going to be prostitution, there will be drugs, there will be needles everywhere. You might as well build a wall around city park and just call it the city prison,” he said.
Another ordinance supporter said that the legislation will prevent businesses from avoiding the area.
“We have homeless people that are sleeping on our streets. If you want new business to come to Parkersburg, West Virginia and they are scouting this town and they see a lovely lady wrapped up in a fluffy pink whatever on our streets and that’s what she calls home…,” she said, adding how it will look bad if police don’t have a way of taking care of the issue with enforcement measures.
“We have to have laws in place that tell these homeless people that, if you do this, this will happen,” she said.
An opposer said that this law isn’t the answer, pointing rather to investing in affordable housing.
“How about incentivizing developers to build duplexes or three or four family units like those incentives used to help them build outside city limits or put tiny homes on some of those vacant lots…,”
She also criticized the fines the law implements.
“If folks have $100 to $500 to pay a fine, they might have a roof over their head,” she said.
The city attorney confirmed with WTAP that officials cannot arrest people for not paying the fine. However, they will be given a court date, according to the police chief.
An opposer also voiced concern that the legislation would merely relocate the issue.
“..., and, even if this was successful, we would merely be pushing these vulnerable people away from service providers in Parkersburg and further out into Wood County, Vienna, Washington County, and that would be transferring our problems to others,” he said.
Mayor Joyce spoke out in favor of the ordinance, saying that officials can point homeless people in the direction of a shelter, treatment facility, or crisis stabilization instead of letting them camp outside.
“There are options that are far and way better for the individual and our community than allowing camping or sleeping on public space...,” he said.
All city council members, except Wendy Tuck, voted to pass the legislation on its final reading.
J.R. Carpenter, the council member behind the legislation, was not there for the vote but he previously told WTAP that it was inspired by the issues he’s seen cities across the U.S. deal with due to encampments.
He pointed to the legislation being proactive rather than reactive.
Carpenter clarified that it is not a major issue here.
For details on the ordinance itself and the perspective of Carpenter, click on the link below.
For Latrobe Street Mission’s executive director’s perspective on the legislation, click on the link below.
Copyright 2023 WTAP. All rights reserved.