Concerned citizens discussing a possible protest at city council - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Concerned citizens discussing a possible protest at city council meeting

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A group of concerned citizens plan to voice their concerns tomorrow morning before Lubbock City Council votes on an ordinance affecting the homeless. If the motion passes, it would illegal to be outside the Mahon Library, civic center, Lubbock Business Center, or City Hall between midnight and 5 A.M. All are popular places for the city's homeless. 

Around 50 people showed up to Wednesday meeting at Carpenter's Church. They shared problems surrounding tomorrow's proposed ordinance. They don't want this to turn into a battle with the city, but instead a solution to a growing problem.     

Cliff Van Loan is homeless and says the proposed ordinance will make an already bad situation worse. "They don't need this ordinance, let it die." 

Chad Wheeler, a minister at Carpenter's Church, spoke at the meeting. "Making it illegal to stay in a few places only pushes people into surrounding areas," he said. 

If it passes, a violation could come with a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500. "If someone gets a fine he can't pay, he ends up going to jail anyway," said Van Loan. 

Denette Vaughn came to the meeting as a community member, concerned about those left out on the streets. She voiced her concerns several times throughout the meeting. "[With a] 500 dollar fine, they'll be in jail 5 days. The county will have to pay for food, shelter, medical cost. So all they're doing if they put this in and arrest people, is shifting the problem from the city." 

Wheeler thinks it may be hard for authorities to keep tabs on the homeless if the ordinance passes. "All the people are in one space right now that is very visible to police. If you spread it to alleys and neighborhoods surrounding downtown, that's going to be a very difficult thing for the city to manage." 

Another item on the agenda from Tuesday's meeting was the law. Many wondered if it violated the hominess's constitutional rights. So we asked Texas Tech Law Professor Arnold Loewy to examine the ordinance. "Between midnight and 5, I couldn't go there, you couldn't go there, and we're not homeless. So I don't think it's a target to the homeless and I don't think its unconstitutional on those grounds." 

Van Loan wants the city's new homeless advisory committee to try and find a solution before city council votes to pass a new law. "That's what the committee is for. To come up with solutions, a community approach to the problem, but adding more ordinances to the law books isn't going to be a solution." 

Many of the people from Wednesday's meeting will be at City Council first thing Thursday to speak. We'll bring you updated details from city hall as soon as they're available on our website.

 Copyright 2010 KCBD. All rights reserved.

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