Tonight Alpharetta’s City Council will consider an ordinance to prohibit unauthorized “camping” in public and private spaces. If enacted the ordinance would essentially criminalize the act of being homeless in Alpharetta. Police would have the authority, after one warning, to arrest these unfortunate people for simply sleeping or preparing a meal.
It didn’t used to be this way for the homeless of Alpharetta. As many as a dozen sites exist around the city where homeless have lived. Most are out of sight in the woods or along flood plains.
Alpharetta always showed compassion for these hidden homeless. A great example can be found in an article by Revue and News reporter Jonathan Copsey. He describes a clan of homeless living in temporary structures in the woods off Mansell Road. The article talks about how police kept in close contact with this homeless community and how local churches responded.
But now things are different. What’s changed? First, Alpharetta’s homeless are no longer hidden. A new group has taken up residence in downtown Alpharetta. Their belongings and sleeping bags are visible at the abandoned gas station on Main Street next to Smokejack.
Homelessness on display is something we’re not accustomed to Alpharetta. It makes some feel uncomfortable or not safe. Additionally, this particular group of homeless is directly across the street from Alpharetta’s proposed City Center project.
Alpharetta’s Council is laser-focused on downtown right now. They’ve demonstrated they are not willing to let things stand in the way of their $29 million investment – be they specimen trees, liquor laws or now the homeless.
It’s also been reported that some of Alpharetta’s homeless have become aggressive when in the past they were mostly peaceful. However the wording of this proposed ordinance doesn’t address such behavior. It levels the sights on homeless who decided to just lay their heads here, regardless of their temperament.
Alpharetta shouldn’t take the extreme step of criminalizing homelessness. And to consider this on Thanksgiving week? Many choose to extend hospitality to the less fortunate on this week, not the other way around.
But no matter how you cut it, this is a most difficult issue to address. My views may be in the minority but I feel strongly about them. I welcome your comments, as always, so long as they remain civil and respectful.
Photo credit: Jonathan Copsey, Appen News