Georgia lawmakers: localities must enforce bans on homeless camps
By JEFF AMY, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers are telling cities and counties they must enforce existing bans on public camping or sleeping homeless people while saying local governments and hospitals cannot dump the homeless. shelter in other counties without permission.
The House voted 99-76 to pass Senate Bill 62 on Monday. The Senate then approved the House amendments adding the dumping ban, sending it to Governor Brian Kemp for his signature or veto.
“We shouldn’t have cities that look away as people choose, or feel they have to, find different places to lay their heads every night,” said Rep. Katie Dempsey, a Republican of Rome.
It’s unclear what effect the bill will have after Senate Democrats amended it to say cities and counties could only be sued if they sent in written guidelines saying their own ordinances could not be applied. The measure also requires a state audit of local spending on homelessness.
As in other cities and states, the push against public camping is being promoted by the Cicero Institute, which argues that creating specific areas where camping is allowed may be a faster solution than building affordable housing. The institute is funded by venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale.
Dempsey said the idea is not to criminalize homelessness, but to find people “a better place than a sidewalk.” Otherwise, she and others said Atlanta and other cities would drive out residents, businesses and tourists.
“We want to make sure cities in this state don’t become like Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, where they encourage people to sleep rough,” said Rep. John LaHood, a Republican from Valdosta.
The provision prohibiting hospitals and local governments from transporting homeless people to another county was added by Rep. Houston Gaines, a Republican from Athens. He said a local business owner called to complain that a homeless man had been dropped off without warning.
Gaines and some other Republicans say it’s especially a problem in small towns with homeless services that can act as a magnet for surrounding areas. The bill would allow transportation if an accepting facility agrees.
“We’re having trouble in Brunswick, Georgia with other people picking up and dropping off people because they heard we had great service,” said Rep. Rick Townsend, a Republican from Brunswick. .