Charleston City Council proposes bill to reduce homeless camps

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – A bill proposed by Charleston City Council would create criminal penalties for camping on public city property.

City Councilor Adam Knauff has said he wants to change the number of people sleeping on public property.

“If you drive through Charleston, people can be seen along the road with their belongings sleeping in tents. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to access public land, and more and more it seems that this is not the case, ”said Knauff. “There are more and more people claiming public land for their own use everywhere. “

WSAZ first reported on Monday that Knauff introduced a bill banning camping in public places. If the bill passes, it will create criminal penalties for anyone settling in the public domain.

“The first is the use of any type of tent or temporary shelter, so if you are doing that and cooking or sleeping or anything that involves something that is not short term use, this project of law would apply, ”Knauff said.

Thomas Hodgson has said he is homeless and sleeps in a shelter every night and believes this bill will do more harm than good.

“It’s a ban where I guess you can’t camp and a lot of homeless people do. They don’t have a choice, ”Hodgson said.

He said this bill will leave homeless people nowhere to go.

“All that’s going to do is push people here to a different place on the street,” Hodgson said. “Then if you ban something, you have to understand that there are fines and fees if you have someone with no income, how are they going to pay the fines and fees? “

Knauff thinks this bill could help solve the problem.

“The purpose of the bill is quite simple: to provide equal access to all public spaces,” Knauff said.

The proposed penalty for violating the law includes a fine of up to $ 500 and jail time of up to five days.

The bill is now forwarded to the City of Charleston Planning, Streets and Traffic Committee and the Ordinances and Rules Committee for further consideration.

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