Homes Not Penalties: Our Opposition to a 2022 Ordinance Amendment

Speakers discuss their opposition to the ordinance at a press event on September 15, 2022

In 2018, Louisville’s Metro Council passed a new ordinance that protected people sleeping on Louisville’s streets, giving them notice when their camps would be cleared so they could connect to resources and remove their belongings. 

In September 2022, an amendment was filed to this ordinance that focused on how to remove unhoused people from public property, enforced by penalties. 

After months of discussion, Metro Council voted to pass this ordinance 16-8 on Thursday, December 15, 2022. Mayor Fischer declined to sign the ordinance in the final days of his term, as did Mayor Greenberg in the beginning days of his term, so the amendment automatically became law here in Louisville.

We have a lack of housing and shelter in our city, which means that when people are forced to move from their cars in public parks or encampments on public property—as this ordinance proposes—they have no option but to find another parking spot for their car or overpass for their tent. Fortunately, the worst of the fines were removed from the latest version of the ordinance. Unfortunately, nothing in the ordinance actually addresses the causes of homelessness in our community or moves us toward solutions. This will only force people to move from one encampment or parking spot to another. 

We will continue to advocate for real solutions to homelessness, not fines or jail time.

We see the following problems with the proposed ordinance amendment:

  • 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 introduces new language outlining that it is illegal to sleep in your car at a public park if they suspect you’re living in your car
  • It makes it illegal to store property in public if “substantially impeding” traffic without defining that

We oppose this ordinance because:

  • People need housing, not penalties, which are ineffective and do not solve the problems of homelessness.
  • 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.
  • Similar laws have been struck down in other states for unconstitutionality.
  • Further criminalization of poverty and homelessness moves Louisville in the wrong direction.