The city of Tempe passed an ordinance in January banning sitting or lying on streets or sidewalks. Now that it’s spring and people come to Tempe to spend their hard-earned cash here, this ordinance has even greater weight.
Although it seems like a “So what, big deal” type of thing, it is having a larger effect on one group of people: the homeless.
The homeless are largely harmless, but to some they are an annoyance. Restaurant owners have complained that the people block their entrances and shower in their restrooms, which, in turn, forces them to provide amenities only for customers.
The driving factor of the homeless population on the streets is the lack of homeless shelters. There isn’t a set shelter and the few that are available are for women or children.
The ordinance that was added (chapter 29, article II, section 29-24) states,
“It shall be unlawful for any person to use a public street, highway, alley, lane, parkway, sidewalk or other right-of-way, whether such right-of-way has been dedicated to the public in fee or by easement, for lying, sleeping or otherwise remaining in a sitting position thereon, except in the case of a physical emergency or in the administration of medical assistance.”
The Tempe City Council passed the ordinance by a vote of 6-1 and police are now taking action to kick the homeless off the streets and out of their spots.
Any defiance of the ordinance results in a civil offense, with a hefty $2,500 fine.
Some are saying the ordinance is “criminalizing the homeless,” but this isn’t the first time that phrase has been used against ordinances to protect our streets.
In 2009, Tempe passed an ordinance against panhandling, and in 1999, it was a misdemeanor to sit on the street, which resulted in a sit-in protest on Mill Avenue.
Through the years of attempted ordinances and changes made, it is still obvious to see the excessive amounts of homeless people just by walking down Mill Avenue.
It does get irritating when you just want to be left alone and enjoy yourself (the sole purpose of going to Mill Avenue) and many people have an issue with the homeless.
Many have a problem giving money based off of the negative connotation that is given to them, that they are drunks or drug users, and although not all of them are the stigma, it is sometimes hard to see past.
I have been asked to purchase things, asked to give money, pestered, even followed in some cases, but the one thing I will always oblige to is a request for food.
I think the ordinance will make people feel safer and make Mill feel more welcoming not only to locals but also tourists. It’s extremely important to keep Tempe looking clean and ready for people to spend money here, especially during the spring when there are events such as spring training going on.
This law change is making the businesses happy that their entrances aren’t blocked and the people happy because they can enjoy their day without being hassled or having to jump around the sidewalk.
Even though I am a proponent of the change, I do feel bad for these people. I think that there needs to be something done in order to help them get in a bed and off the streets — even if temporarily.
Reach the columnist at Lauren.Klenda@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @laurenklenda