New ordinance prohibits jail loitering, activist worried it takes away safe spot for homeless

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 10:27 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A new ordinance in Greenville County will prohibit trespassing and loitering at the detention center. It was brought to the table by Councilman Mike Barnes after complaints about several people loitering in the lobby of the detention center.

Leaders believe many of the people hanging out in the lobby are homeless, or just people with nowhere to go. It’s a public building and before this ordinance there was no law against them being there so they’re allowed to stay. But, a local activist says this issue falls hand-in hand with the homelessness crisis in the city.

“It’s one thing to put restrictions on them, I get it, but let’s also make sure we can help them,” said Bruce Wilson, leader of Fighting for Injustice Together.

It might be a jail, but for some it’s a safe haven. However, Councilman Lynn Ballard agrees something needs to be done.

“It’s causing problems in the lobby with too many people in there for one thing. I guess there’s been some problems in the restrooms with the cleanliness.” said Ballard.

The ordinance will allow the facility to place time limits on how long a person can be inside. violators could face a $500 fine. Ballard says people might be staying there, because they have nowhere else to go.

“This time of year it’s cool, in the wintertime it’s warm. It’s relatively safe if you’re in the law enforcement center” he said.

That’s exactly why activist Bruce Wilson asked the council to consider what the ordinance might do.

“We saw a couple weeks ago the homeless population getting beat up and jumped on but here we are passing an ordinance” said Wilson.

The council passed the ordinance unanimously. Ballard says it fills a gap in the law, and he believes it’s the best solution at this time.

“The ordinance is the best way. Particularly when nothing exists now” said Ballard.

Wilson is now planning to help those who might feel put out by this passage.

“What are we going to do after it’s passed to make sure the individuals, especially the homeless, do not get trapped in this ordinance or the ordinance gets used against them?” he said to council.

Another activist, Jack Logan founder of Put Down the Guns now Young People, spoke out against the ordinance at the first reading as well. But, he did come back to council Tuesday and said he was now in favor. Logan said he changed his mind after seeing the dirty conditions of the detention center lobby.