Homes Not Fines: Our Opposition to a New Ordinance Amendment

In 2018, Louisville’s Metro Council passed a new ordinance that provided protection for people sleeping on Louisville’s streets. This meant that people in camps would receive notice about when their camps would be cleared, giving them time to get connected to resources and remove their belongings. The Coalition for the Homeless was grateful to Metro Council for passing this ordinance almost unanimously, with a vote of 20-2.

In early September, an amendment was filed to this ordinance, which would make it illegal to camp in public parks with fines of up to $200 per day for a violation, as well as illegal to store personal property in a public space for any period of time, with fines of up to $1,000 per day. 

People experiencing homelessness need housing and services, not fines. Fining people who are extremely poor is not only cruel, but it’s ineffective as a deterrent. 

Please send a message to your Metro Council representative urging them to vote against punitive fees for people who cannot pay them, and to focus on practical solutions for the problems we are facing as a community.

Speakers discuss their opposition to the ordinance at a press event on September 15

We see the following problems with the proposed ordinance amendment:

  • It fines people for sleeping in parks (Section 7A) $50 to $250 for each offense, with new fines accruing daily
  • It allows for a subjective evaluation of what personal property has to be stored versus what can be discarded (items with “apparent utility”) during a camp clearing (Section 4A)
  • It removes personal property protections if an encampment is cleared without a 21-day notice (Section 4C)
  • It creates citations and fines (of up to $1,000) for people who store belongings on the sidewalk (Section 8): $100 to $250 for first offense; $250 to $500 for second offense in two years; $500 to $1,000 for third offenses committed within a three-year period (LMCO 97.999E)

We oppose this ordinance because:

  • People need housing, not fines, which are cruel and ineffective for people who can’t even afford to pay rent. 
  • Criminalizing public storage of property for people who are unhoused—in a city where we are short 30,000 units of affordable housing—is cruel.
  • Unpaid fines for unhoused people will follow them, delaying their ability to pay rent and bills in the future.
  • Similar laws have been struck down in other states for unconstitutionality.
  • Further criminalization of poverty and homelessness moves Louisville in the wrong direction.