Committee: Health & Public Safety
Chairperson: Ms. Jo Broden
Present: Ms. Jo Broden, Mr. Tim Scott, Mr. Oliver Davis, Jr, Mr. John Voodre, Ms. Karen White
From the Mayor's Office - Ms. Laura Sullivan, Chief of Staff
Council Attorney Bob Palmer, Presenting
Opening Comment by Councilman Davis - "A chain is defined by its weakest link. We are defined by how we care for our most vulnerable."
* There has been no Bill crafted, this is the start of the process to gather information and receive input from the public.
* Some of these are called "Right to Rest" bills. The right to sleep or rest in public.
* First one was written in Rhode Island in 2012
* In the case of South Bend it is not to "right the wrongs of laws criminalizing resting or eating in public"
* Mayor wants "Unity of Purpose"
* This is not a complete solution
* Nothing can force people to take shelter
* People have the right to be free from opression
* This is a starting point
* Puerto Rico has the most extensive rights. They classify the homeless the way we classify minorities here with rights.
They have 7 main rights:
1. To move about freely
2. Equal access and treatment to municipal agencies
3. Employment without having to have a home address
4. Access to emergency care
5. The right to vote without having a set address
6. Right to privacy about their information
7. Right to privacy and not have their items stolen or taken
* No harassment from police
* Right to give and receive food
* Worked on a Bill of Rights for 3-4 years and it was vetoed by their Mayor
* Later passed one that had less in it
* Protected to live in camps
* Given 15 days notice to keep and store their belongings
* If removed, the City most store the belongings for up to 60 days and catalog the items.
* Items must fit within a 90 gallon container size
* Duty to find them services to help them with their issues
* Enforcement Proceedings
At the State level agencies and revenues can be created to address the issue.
Whatever SB does, it can't go against existing State Statutes
Suggestion is to insert it into the Human Rights Commission area as a classification based on housing status
Councilman Varner wants to add a "Responsibilities of the Homeless" component. (See slide)
Concerns expressed were:
* Criminal Activity
* Reduction in Business
* Lowering of Property Values
* Creating fear in people
Councilman Tim Scott Comments:
* How many other cities have been looked at for examples?
* Are there performance metrics for cities who have implemented a Bill of Rights?
* Look at the 15 Day Notice
* Learn what the health concerns are to the community
* People living in cars - perhaps have a designated lot
It's easier for a State to address the Homeless issue
South Bend shouldn't shoulder the whole responsibility - County needs to assist
Councilman Oliver Davis, Jr. Comments:
* Homeless come to the larger cities seeking mental health treatments, jobs and entertainment activities
Councilwoman Jo Broden Comments:
* Wants to know about the past bills introduced at the State level, even if they didn't pass
* Have there been any legal challenges to the legalities in other areas/
* Records and data in other areas like Indianapolis
Ron Parker - the "Cass Communities" in Detroit have been successful in addressing homeless issues
The problem is that mental health facilities and County Homes no longer exist
Henry Davis Jr. - Likes there is a public forum since we need to protect people, not punish them.
Expressed concern the Homeless experience discrimination like he does when not wearing a suit and tie.
John Shafer - Michiana 5 for the Homeless - Reminds us the Homeless are already Citizens with Rights. They need to know the count and matter. He detailed an incident where a man had a diabetic issue and had hurdles receiving the care he needed.
Nate Levin-Aspenson - Is pleased to see South Bend showing Moral Leadership. Granular concerns include: The Homeless Constituents may not know about it and doesn't want the wording to be too broad or it just becomes a "Vanity" piece of legislation. Wants things more defined than "Reasonable".
Rebecca Burton - Wants the panhandling signs removed and is disgusted by the humiliating treatment of the Homeless. Does not like that the items such as sleeping bags they use to keep warm were thrown away. Kevin Hoggard held the banner, "Homeless Lives Matter".
Sue Kesim - Expressed the need for specific rights about using public facilities since those at Transpo and the Hospital are closed or they are denied at times. Joy Johns were removed. If they need to have a place to relieve themselves, cleanup and shower, as well as do some laundry so they can be presentable. It is practical and a health issue.
Charles Smith - Doesn't like the indignity of them having their belongings thrown away. Did appreciate some of the officers were considerate.
Councilman Oliver Davis - "We have to take care of our own. This makes us a strong city."
Councilwoman Broden suggested there be future meetings at the FUSE Center. She commended the "Continum of Care" and "Rennaisance Working Group" for their efforts.
More information is available in the Common Council Dropbox or the City Clerk's Office.
For more meetings and articles: #MichianaObserver #MySouthBend
Citizens attending community events to inform other Citizens.