Tucker passes ‘urban camping’ ordinance to curb homelessness

City of Tucker

Credit: City of Tucker

Credit: City of Tucker

City of Tucker

After roughly two months of debate and tweaks, Tucker passed an “urban camping” ordinance intended to limit public homelessness in the city.

The measure received pushback from several residents and community activists after being introduced at the beginning of the year. They worried the ordinance would lead to arrests instead of referrals to shelters and other services.

The negative reception from residents prompted the city to create a task force in February to reevaluate the ordinance and recommend changes. The final version of the ordinance council members passed unanimously Monday prohibits sleeping, cooking or storing personal property in public places, including streets, parks and underneath bridges.

In addition, it added more steps Tucker police officers must take before they can arrest a person in violation. They have to issue a verbal or written warning, and they must offer services to the person, such as calling a homeless shelter, a referral agency or a transportation service.

The ordinance was created through a partnership with DeKalb County police. The county does not have a law banning urban camping, but Tucker said the ordinance mirrors similar laws in Brookhaven, Chamblee and Dunwoody.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, a Tucker resident thanked city leaders for the extra edits to the ordinance, but he still worried that it will harm homeless individuals.

The resident, Don Anderson, said the ordinance might not “avoid the situation where a referral simply goes to a waiting list and puts the homeless person in the position to move without having another alternative.”

Councilwoman Anne Lerner said she didn’t want the ordinance or city police to potentially restrict shelters or referral agencies from doing their jobs, adding that they best know how to address those potential occupancy issues. Lerner also said there were plenty of vacant beds in homeless shelters before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Before COVID last January when the homeless Census count was done in metro Atlanta, there were 600 empty beds,” she said. “Any given night, there can be availability — when one (shelter) is full, others are not.”

Follow DeKalb County News on Facebook and Twitter