Homeless people could face fines or community service if the bill is signed into law

Knoxville, Tenn. (WATE) – Homeless people could soon pay a $50 fine or perform community service if a bill expanding the Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012 is signed into law by Governor Bill Lee. Both the House and the Senate approved the bill.

“It basically allows local governments an enforcement mechanism, if they choose, to use it for those camping on any public property,” said State Senator Paul Bailey, who introduced the law Project.

Senate Bill 1610 would penalize homeless people for soliciting or camping on public property. Bailey said this type of app is needed in Tennessee communities.

“Often these people come out of the camps and take the resources that are offered to them, but there are some who really don’t want to leave these camps,” he said.

That’s what Bailey said will provide a solution to help the homeless in the state, but others disagree.

“I think this is a terrible bill,” said state Rep. Gloria Johnson.

She thinks there are other ways to deal with homelessness.

“This bill is going to directly target our most vulnerable Tennesseans,” Johnson said. “Let’s find a way to come together and solve this problem as you know, by looking at what other communities across the country have done. There is a solution, we just have to make it a priority,” she said.

Marti Baker, the founder of Care Cuts Ministry thinks she has this solution.

“We have to treat them with love,” she said. “We don’t need to hunt them like they’re a bunch of animals. We have to dig a little deeper and we have to find the answer and I believe that answer is a welcome day center.

Although Baker agrees with the goal behind the bill, she says after spending hours with homeless people in Knoxville, she thinks this idea will be more effective.

“These people don’t go inside shelters, they’re used to being outside,” Baker said. “These people can’t keep their appointments and they can’t pay fines. So we need another place, we need an alternative.

Bailey also mentioned that this bill allows warnings to be given before applying a fine or community service and that it will be up to local authorities to enforce this bill if it is enacted.

Jill E. Washington