Atlanta airport’s approach to homeless outlined in proposed ordinance

A man (left) sleeps on the ground in the domestic terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as flight passengers (right) walk toward security on Friday, February 7, 2020, in Atlanta. Many of Atlanta’s homeless sleep overnight in the airport’s domestic terminal when the city experiences frigid winter temperatures. The man (left) wished not to be identified. (Christina Matacotta/crmatacotta@gmail.com)
A man (left) sleeps on the ground in the domestic terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as flight passengers (right) walk toward security on Friday, February 7, 2020, in Atlanta. Many of Atlanta’s homeless sleep overnight in the airport’s domestic terminal when the city experiences frigid winter temperatures. The man (left) wished not to be identified. (Christina Matacotta/crmatacotta@gmail.com)

A proposed city ordinance intended to discourage homeless people from going to Hartsfield-Jackson sleep now specifies how violators should be handled.

While police can detain or cite anyone found at the airport during restricted hours, the updated ordinance proposal says that, if a homeless person is arrested or issued a citation, the person will be given access to “certain pre-trial intervention services.”

City Council is trying to walk the line between securing the airport and making sure that homelessness isn’t criminalized.

The ordinance makes clear that the law would apply to anyone found inside Hartsfield-Jackson without any airline ticket, homeless or not, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. During those hours, the airport only allows ticketed passengers, those assisting ticketed passengers and authorized personnel.

A clause refers to “recent events” that posed security threats to government buildings.

In the months since the airport hours legislation was first drafted by city officials, the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and concerns about security at state capitols and other government buildings have highlighted the risks of breaches of public buildings.

The Capitol riots, however, occurred in broad daylight rather than the overnight hours the airport restrictions are focused on.

ExploreAirport wants law restricting access overnight to limit number of homeless

The ordinance was tabled last month so that the council’s transportation committee could “talk further about the provisions and support and care we’re providing to the unsheltered population,” chair Andre Dickens said.

Transportation committee member Antonio Brown, who has himself been homeless, said Wednesday that council members wanted to make changes to address “issues, resources and support services.”

It also notes that the Atlanta Police Department has a Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement Team and that police are “trained in policies and procedures which ensure the fair and equal treatment of all unsheltered persons.”

The Atlanta City Council voted to approve the measure Monday.

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