Davidson News

Davidson News

Shawnee, Oklahoma Adopts ‘Sit/Lie’ Ordinance, Prompting Concerns About Homelessness

The Board of City Commissioners in Shawnee, Oklahoma, has recently voted 6-1 in favour of implementing a new ordinance known as “Sit/Lie.” This ordinance is designed to address concerns about public safety within the downtown area of Shawnee, by prohibiting activities such as sleeping outside, lying down, sitting down, or placing objects in the right-of-way. However, critics express worry that the ordinance might inadvertently criminalize homelessness.

Balancing Safety and Concerns: The “Sit/Lie” Ordinance Explained

The “Sit/Lie” ordinance targets specific activities in the downtown area that may impede others, emphasizing safety for both locals and tourists. Proponents argue that these measures are essential for maintaining a secure environment. However, detractors are concerned that penalizing such behaviours could disproportionately impact homeless individuals.

The new regulation specifies that individuals will only face penalties after being informed by law enforcement that their actions violate the city’s ordinance. Violations include sleeping, lounging, or sitting in a manner that obstructs public spaces, such as sidewalks in commercial areas. Placing objects that hinder the passage of others is also considered a violation.

During the commission meeting, Shawnee Mayor Ed Bold highlighted an alternative approach for those unable to pay fines. Instead of monetary penalties, individuals violating the ordinance may be required to perform community service. The ordinance is set to take effect on January 15, 2023, with a relatively low fine of $10, reflecting the city’s intention “not to criminalize homelessness.”

Certain exceptions have been outlined, ensuring that individuals seated on provided chairs or benches from private property owners or public entities are not affected by the ordinance. The exemption extends to people waiting in line for businesses and those participating or witnessing events like parades, festivals, rallies, or similar activities. Individuals facing medical emergencies are also exempt from the new regulations.

Long-Term Solutions: Acknowledging Homelessness Concerns

City officials, while implementing short-term measures, openly acknowledged during the meeting that establishing an emergency homeless shelter would be a more sustainable long-term solution. Recognizing the complexities of homelessness, they expressed a commitment to exploring options that balance public safety with compassion for those experiencing homelessness in Shawnee.

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