October 15, 2019–12:34 a.m.
The Rome City Commission Monday night approved new ordinances prohibiting urban camping and aggressive panhandling.
Prior to the vote, the commission heard from members of the community.
Among those who spoke was Allen Fowler, who became homeless after he had heart surgery.
“I hate being homeless, “he told commissioners. “I’m waiting on disability and, you know, they like to go through their steps. I’m kind of stuck out here. I think it will be a bad day in Rome and a sad day when the homeless, when you’re stuck out here in situations that you have no control over, you can be arrested for being homeless.
Rome City Commissioner Jamie Doss commended Fowler for sharing his story with the commission.
“You are actually speaking for a large group of people,” Doss said. “A lot of people do not realize that it’s not easy to come before this board and this audience and tell your story. So, persevere and keep it up. I think these ordinances are needed, but the problem is the perception of the ordinances. It casts a negative perception.”
The Public Safety Committee recommended the two ordinance amendments requested by Rome City Police to help address some immediate concerns from citizens.
Police say said the goal of the ordinances was not to put people in jail, rather it was to give them a tool they could use when handling complaints.
Under the urban camping ordinance, a warning is issued for a first offense.
If the person fails to promptly comply with the warning issued, then that person may be issued a citation or arrested.
The vote was 8 to 1 for both ordinances, with Commissioner Wendy Davis the only “No” vote.
You can read the ordinances on below.
A new Homelessness Task Force, which was born out of the discussions about the ordinances, is continuing its work to find some long term solutions.
The next meeting is October 24.