Greenville Council not out to criminalize homelessness


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE – An ordinance approved by Greenville City Council on Sept. 6 continues to draw criticism and questions from the public. As stated in the summary of the ordinance read at that council meeting, the ordinance “concerns unauthorized encampments on public and/or private property, as it intends to endanger the health and safety of those engaged in such camping, as well as the general public.” The ordinance was unanimously approved by council members with an emergency clause. The emergency clause means the ordinance was in full effect the moment the mayor signed it. It was noted the ordinance was related to homeless encampments in the city.

On Oct. 4, at the regular meeting of Greenville City Council, Michael Reiman, law director, tried to clarify the city’s position regarding the encampments and temporary structures ordinance. He stressed that he wanted to “combat some information that is going around out there.” Reiman said, “No one has been arrested on that ordinance. People’s property is not getting thrown away with that. What that ordinance does is attempts to clean up our parks and our situations and help a situation where we’ve identified a serious problem.” He emphasized that it does not criminalize homelessness. “Which is some of the buzz words that you are going to hear going around.” He added, “What it does do is it targets encampments and structures that, you know, you’re not going to be able to build something to live in this area when there’s alternative means.”

According to the law director, finding “alternative means” is an important part of the ordinance. “Before anyone is arrested or ticketed for it, we ensure there is a place to go. We don’t enforce the ordinance without alternatives,” he added.

Councilperson Delores Eley shared that she is concerned. “I know that we passed this ordinance. I’ve gotten calls about how unfair we’ve been,” she said. “I need to remind people, myself as well, city council does not have focus groups. We have to look for what’s good for all of the citizens. One of our biggest resources in our community are our city parks and parks in general.” She said she hates to think about what could go wrong in terms of safety and cleanliness. Eley asked those who are saying the city is victimizing and labeling the homeless to read the ordinance. “It doesn’t do that,” she said. “We need to all pay attention about what is going on in our city.”

Council President John Baumgardner affirmed Eley’s comments, “Delores, I would basically repeat everything you’re saying. You nailed it on what we are doing in the city. You’ve got to take care of the big picture.”

Eley, Baumgardner and Councilman Clarence Godwin also gave credit to the street department for cleaning up the trash under the Martha Benkert Memorial Bridge on South Broadway. Eley said, “They (street crew) were professionals when they were assigned the task of picking up trash on Broadway. I got a call from somebody who said, ‘What’s going on on Broadway at the bridge.’ What I saw were professional people bringing up bags of trash to be hauled away. They just wanted to get the trash picked up.”

Godwin said he was at the bridge prior to the cleanup and saw raw meat in the water and trash. “I went back down later to see how much cleaner it is. The street department did a very good job,” he said.

Baumgardner said, “It’s not an easy job to send people down there under the bridge to pick up trash when there are hypodermic needles, feces and everything else. Matt (Myers, street department superintendent), kudos to your crew. That was a train wreck underneath there. It was awful, pitiful the way under that bridge looked. It’s appalling that someone could live in those conditions and treat our park like that.”

In other business, council:

* Approved a resolution authorizing the safety/service director to enter into contract with Garmann Miller for rendering of professional services in 2022 for restrooms in YOLO Park;

* Approved a resolution accepting Brumbaugh Construction’s bid for the North Ohio Street Construction project;

* Approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to hire Scott Wilson as interim superintendent of the Water Treatment Plant; and

* Approved a resolution authorizing the safety/service director to enter into contract with Rumpke Waste Disposal for the removal and disposal of trash and recyclable materials.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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