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Critics say Mobile city council proposal will target the homeless


The Mobile City council may consider an ordinance tomorrow making it illegal to camp in public spaces. Advocates for the homeless are criticizing the proposal by Councilman Ben Reynolds. His district includes Tillman’s Corner, which has one of the largest homeless populations in Mobile.

Reynolds says the issue has nothing to with the homeless, and that it comes down to public health and safety–not the homeless.

“It’s just a mechanism to protect the health, safety, and aesthetics of our communities,” Reynolds said.

Elizabeth Chiepalich disagrees. She runs the Facebook group Homeless in Mobile. She hopes this ordinance raises awareness of the homeless crisis in the Port City.

“I don’t think it’s an appropriate phrase, but I think it’s almost opened a can of worms and exposing what needs to be exposed,” she said.

While the ordinance addresses public issues, Chiepalich is concerned that pushing the homeless out of the camps that are their homes or disposing of their belongings with no solutions will deepen the mental health crisis for the homeless and for the Gulf coast. Reynolds concedes that his proposal could impact the less fortunate.

Mobile city councilman Ben Reynolds plans to introduce his ordinance tomorrow. It would make it illegal to camp in public spaces like parks and right of ways. Reynolds says this is a public health and safety issue and the ordinance follows those passed by other cities. He says it has nothing to do with the homeless.

“Yes, there will be adverse effects with the homeless, and we need to address those some way somehow,” the Councilman said.

Chiepalich with the Facebook group Homeless in Mobile says one solution is day rooms around Mobile. These facilities give the homeless a place to go. .

“Once the people come off the streets and can sit down and collect themselves, volunteers can interview them and schedule appointments for Healthcare for the Homeless,” Chiepalich said.

Reynolds says he’s received multiple complaints from constituents about litter and encampments in district. His proposal camping ban doesn’t specific name the homeless, but advocates say they will be the ones impacted.

Lynn Oldshue is a reporter for Alabama Public Radio.
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