Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News)- The Rochester City Council has approved a new ordinance by the slimmest of margins that’s meant to address the city’s homelessness issue. 

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It passed on a 4-3 vote during the council’s meeting Monday night. Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin recommended the council consider the ordinance last summer

The ordinance prohibits camping in city parks and other municipal-owned lands at all hours of the day, which is an upgrade from a previous camping ban that was in effect during nighttime hours. 

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In advocating for the proposal, Franklin described the camping ban as another tool for officers and others involved in addressing the city's homelessness problems. He previously said the camping ban would help law enforcement officers to "encourage people experiencing homelessness toward greater utilization of shelter and other social services.” 

Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin. RPD photo
Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin. RPD photo
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Violation of the ordinance would be considered a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in Jail. Critics of the proposal say the penalty associated with violating the ordinance criminalizes homelessness. 

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They also point out the city’s homeless population outnumbers available beds and staffing capacity to provide services. Michael Spindler-Krage, Attorney for the City of Rochester, said any ordinance with enforceable action is required to have a penalty attached to it.

 “The reality is that even if a citation is issued, and again we’re hoping that it’s a rare occurrence, it is highly unlikely the court system would impose any jail time or any fine at all,” Spindler-Krage told council members.  

Franklin and city staff have previously said the enforcement tool would be used sparingly in cases involving homeless people who have repeatedly refused housing and other services. 

City documents say the law would only be enforced if the person has been informed of the various services available to them, and that person has been given a warning that they are in violation of the ordinance. 

Homeless Struggle To Maintain New Encampment In Sacramento
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The ordinance also requires that any officer seeking to enforce the law to confirm that some form of overnight shelter is available to that person. That would not apply in cases where a person has been kicked out of otherwise available shelter services. 

The camping ban could take effect as soon as next month.

More Minnesota News:

The Landing, MN is giving the homeless in Rochester, Minnesota a place to land.

While Rochester, Minnesota is home to the world-famous Mayo Clinic, it is also home to many who are facing homelessness. Thankfully, in 2018, The Landing MN was founded which is a resource-based non-profit organization that assists multiple individuals with fulfilling needs, such as handling medical resources, seeking housing, and obtaining necessities for day-to-day living. Get a glimpse at the impact The Landing, MN is making in the community at the photos below and at their website here.

Gallery Credit: Jessica Williams

 

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