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Charleston City Council proposes bill to cut down on homeless camps

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 6:56 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A bill proposed by Charleston City Council would create criminal penalties for camping on public property in the city.

Councilman Adam Knauff said he wants to change the amount of people who sleep on public property.

“If you take a drive through Charleston, people can be seen along the road with their belongings sleeping in tent. Everyone needs to have equal opportunity to public land, and it seems increasingly that is not the case,” Knauff said. “There are more people claiming public land for their own use all over the place.”

WSAZ first reported Monday that Knauff introduced a bill that would ban camping in public places. If the bill passes, it would create criminal penalties for anyone who sets up shop on public property.

“First is the use of any kind of tent or temporary shelter, so if you are doing that and you are cooking or sleeping or anything that implies something that is not short term use, this bill would apply,” Knauff said.

Thomas Hodgson said he’s homeless and sleeps in a shelter each night and believes this bill will do more harm than good.

“It’s a ban where I guess you can’t camp out and a lot of people that are homeless are doing just that. They don’t have any choice,” Hodgson said.

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

“All that is going to do is push people from here to a different location down the street a ways,” Hodgson said. “Then, if you ban something you got to figure there is fines and fees if you’ve got someone with no income how are they going to pay fines and fees.”

Knauff believes this bill could help fix the problem.

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

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

The bill now goes to the city of Charleston’s Planning, Streets and Traffic Committee and the Ordinance and Rules Committee to be further reviewed.

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