OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Three new ordinances that would’ve banned trespassing and putting homeless encampments on public or private property were struck down at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
“This is abhorrent and terrifying, and won’t even hold up in court,” said Anna Smith, who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. “But, what it will do is ruin some people’s lives in the process.”
She was one of dozens of people who pleaded for the city council members to vote against three measures proposed by Ward 8’s Mark Stonecipher.
“It is time to address this issue,” said Stonecipher during the meeting.
The ordinances would have banned anyone trespassing or camping on public or private property, including bridges, underpasses and land owned by ODOT in city limits. Violators would have faced fines up to $500.
They also would have given Oklahoma City Police authority to “take law enforcement action” to enforce these measures.
Brief summaries of each can be found in the picture of Tuesday’s meeting’s agenda below:
However, the ordinances received overwhelming backlash during Tuesday’s meeting.
“Criminalizing homelessness is not the solution for caring for our people,” said Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City.
Dan Straughan, the executive director for the Homeless Alliance also spoke out, arguing that there are better solutions.
“We don’t have the housing or the shelter beds,” said Straughan. “So, that’s why an ordinance like this can be so damaging, because there is no way for unsheltered homeless people to behave legally.”
After a five-hour debate, Councilman Stonecipher ultimately struck down his own proposal and the rest of council unanimously voted to pass that motion.
He was not available for an interview, but in a statement said:
“Today was a great exchange of ideas. We are all working hard on resolving the homeless issue in Oklahoma City, but at this time we need to keep discussing these issues among council and staff. The good news is that we all agree our city is trying to do a better job of delivering services to those experiencing homelessness.”