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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Proposed KY law criminalizing homeless camping 'will make our work harder,' advocates say

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Monday, October 16, 2023   

A lengthy proposal aimed at reducing crime recently unveiled by Kentucky lawmakers has housing advocacy groups concerned about the impact on the homeless.

The Safer Kentucky Act, currently in draft stages, is expected to be introduced when the legislature convenes next year. The proposal includes a statewide camping ban, with penalties of up to $5,000 and one month in jail, and funding penalties to any jurisdiction refusing to enforce the ban.

Tish Shupe, housing director for Clark County Community Services, said organizations who provide services to the homeless are deeply concerned the measures could make their work more difficult, and are shocked at the lack of input from people working on the ground.

"We've got a lot of good smart people in Kentucky working on the issues with mental health and homelessness," Shupe pointed out. "It's just kind of disappointing that the Legislature didn't address those two issues more directly with those people."

Supporters, including Rep. Jared Bauman, R-Louisville, the bill's lead sponsor, said the legislation will reduce the number of homicides and keep communities safer. The proposal also includes increased penalties for attempted murder and a three-strikes law for persistent felony offenders.

Shupe countered being arrested and incarcerated is not going to do anything to help stabilize individuals with mental health issues and substance-use issues, which likely contributed to their being homeless, nor make communities safer.

"Having a policeman come up to them, and then just hold them back to the car and the handcuffs and throw them in jail, well, that's only gonna make that issue worse," Shupe contended. "If I've been working with anybody, and they've actually made some progress, well, that just sets them back."

The measure is calling for the creation of "homeless outreach teams" which would require law enforcement to force unhoused people into state-run encampments under threat of arrest.

A 2020 study found criminalizing homeless people limits their access to services, housing and jobs; while fines and time spent in jail create further barriers to accessing stable housing.


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House Bill passed with an overwhelming vote of 94-6, with three abstentions. Its companion, Senate Bill 159, passed unanimously with a vote of 34-0. (Chad Robertson/Adobe Stock)

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