Georgia bill would allow state to create homeless camps

FILE - Homeless men sleep on Marietta Street in Atlanta, Friday, June 5, 2020. On Monday, Feb....
FILE - Homeless men sleep on Marietta Street in Atlanta, Friday, June 5, 2020. On Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, a Georgia Senate committee passed a bill that would say cities and counties could not stop enforcing bans on public camping or sleeping. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)(Mike Stewart | AP)
Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 5:15 AM CST
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ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia Senate bill could compel cities and counties to enforce bans on homeless people sleeping or camping in public.

The measure also lets the state designate camping areas for homeless people and calls for an audit of spending on homeless programs.

This is the second year in a row Republican Sen. Carden Summers of Cordele has offered a bill on homelessness. Last year’s bill was harsher, making it a misdemeanor to camp on public property and denying grants to cities that didn’t enforce the ban.

“We’re trying to create sanctioned camping areas for people, there are a lot of vacant areas in every city,” said Sen. Carden.

The Senate State & Local Government Operations Committee voted 4-3 to advance Senate Bill 62 on Monday. It now heads to the full Senate for more debate.

Groups at the meeting opposed the bill. Coco Guthrie-Papy works with more than 800 homeless kids in Chatham County through her organization Deep Space. She said the bill could create a public safety issue.

“think about how concentrating people in one area where sober people are next to people in active addiction and people with mental health episodes,” said Guthrie-Papy.

The Georgia Municipal Association testified the bill could open up cities to harmful lawsuits.

“The state law is tying the hands of city officials. The threat of litigation that would come with it and be very expensive for cities, would deplete the resources that could otherwise solve the problem,” said Jim Thornton with the Georgia Municipal Association.

The committee members suggest that Sen. Carden make some changes before presenting the bill to the Senate.