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Indianapolis City-County Council OKs Homeless Bill Of Rights

Indianapolis has become one of a handful of cities to adopt a so-called Homeless Bill of Rights.

The Indianapolis City-County Council adopted the ordinance by a vote of 16-13 Monday night.

Modeled after similar laws in Illinois and Rhode Island, it spells out certain rights for homeless people, including the right to move freely in public places, the right to emergency medical care, the right to vote and the right to equal treatment by city agencies.

Christy Shepard, executive director with the Coalition for Homeless Intervention and Prevention in Indianapolis, says the measure isn’t about giving homeless people extra rights.

“It just restates what rights all people have and reminds us that even those that are living unsheltered, those that are the high barrier, most needy individuals that are out there — they have these rights too, even if they’re not sleeping under a roof,” she says.

Supporters say that the move will help save money by cutting down on arrests. Opponents worry that the ordinance would make it more difficult to shut down homeless camps due to public safety concerns.

The ordinance, sponsored by Democratic Councilman LeRoy Robinson, originally contained funding for a “homeless engagement center” that would help people connect with mental health and addiction treatment programs.

That provision was split out into a separate proposal before Monday night’s vote.

Mayor Greg Ballard could still veto the proposal.

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