By Jeremy Brilliant
Dec 28, 2014
Originally posted November 12, 2014.
Tim Sparks isn't exactly homeless. His shack, along the banks of the White River, is heated.
"Yeah, it ain't bad," he said. "It's enough to make sure you ain't gonna freeze to death. You know what I mean."
Inside the fifteen by fifteen-foot structure made of scrap wood, he's got a wood burning stove and a tarp-covered tent where he sleeps. He's been here six months. He and about eight other homeless people would have no problem staying at this camp if proposed ordinance 291 is passed.
"I mean that's good, everyone needs some kind of protection, I guess,” said Sparks, who is 45 years old and said he became homeless when he lost a job as a painter.
The proposed ordinance states: "The city may not displace a homeless person or homeless camp unless there is available alternative transitional or long-term housing..."
The ordinance stems from what some perceived as mistreatment of the homeless who last year were removed, along with their camp, from under the Davidson Street Bridge.
"It was a serious situation. In fact it was a public health situation ," said City-County Councilor Michael McQuillen, the Republican Minority leader. He sees the ordinance as a step in the wrong direction.
"We're talking rats, feces, drugs, you name it and it was going on there in that situation [at the Davidson Street camp]. If we were to pass a proposal like this, it would be very difficult for the police to go in and address situations like that the way the proposal is worded," said McQuillen.
But those who work with the homeless say the fact that the council is talking about the issue and possibly giving the homeless rights, means the city is taking homelessness seriously.
"If we have to move people due to danger, safety concerns then let's come up with reasonable options for them and I think that we can do that," said Kay Wiles of HealthNet Homeless Initiative Program.
But Tim plans to stay put.
"I could stay here...it wouldn't bother me. I mean, I like the woods anyway, so it wouldn't bother me," said Sparks.
This proposed ordinance passed out of committee Tuesday night but in order for it to become an actual city ordinance, the entire City-County Council will need to vote on it. That will happen on December 1st.
Read the proposed ordinance here.