FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2023
DETROIT – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) sent a letter to the Grand Rapids Mayor and City Commissioners urging them to reject proposed ordinances targeting panhandlers and other unhoused people because they violate basic constitutional principles.
As written, the ordinances would allow the City to seize “excess property,” which is defined as anything over 32 gallons, or about as much as fits into a Hefty trash bag. The ordinances ban tents in any public area. They also make it a crime to “loiter” or “accost” another person in certain places.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinances is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11, at 2 p.m.
Dayja Tillman, Attorney at the ACLU of Michigan, said this about the proposed ordinances:
“All residents of Grand Rapids have the right to be in public places. That includes people who don’t have a home to go to. Instead of passing laws that will result in the City paying more for jail beds, let’s invest in real beds. We need to focus on solutions that will address homelessness, not criminalize it.
“The City’s recent proposals exacerbate the challenges facing our unhoused residents by narrowing the already limited spaces in which they can exist and depriving them of their few possessions, rather than genuinely addressing their needs. And, while not explicitly stating so, the City again attempts to criminalize the act of panhandling.
“The danger of such laws is not simply that they may be applied unfairly, but that their very existence can deter constitutionally protected speech and behavior, creating a chilling effect.”
The full letter is below.