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‘Compliance, not punishment’: Roanoke plans to enforce new law banning camping on downtown sidewalks

The ordinance was passed by Roanoke City Council Monday and will be enforced starting 2022

Roanoke City Council passed a new ordinance banning camping on downtown Roanoke sidewalks earlier this week, but there are still many questions surrounding the new law.

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke City Council passed a new ordinance banning camping on downtown Roanoke sidewalks earlier this week, but there are still many questions surrounding the new law.

10 News is working for you to get answers on how the ordinance will be enforced. That’s why we sat down with Roanoke’s city attorney, Tim Spencer to go over what will be done between now and the new year when the law goes into effect.

“What we are hoping to do, we have a HAT (homeless assistance team) team and our HAT team initially for the next 30 days it’s going to be a transition period or grace period where we are going to accomplish one of three things,” said Spencer. “We are going to inform folks of the new ordinance, give them an opportunity to comply and to connect those individuals who are in need of services with those services,” he said.

After the grace period ends, we asked Spencer how the city plans to enforce this ordinance.

“Again, we’re going to continue to connect people with services. But I anticipate again, with this it will be prohibited and there will be a potential for a fine. That may occur, hopefully, it won’t,” he explained. “Our experience of dealing with the same type of regulation with our parks has been compliance, not punishment. And we are hoping to achieve the same thing,”

Spencer, along with other city leaders, says this ordinance is not about handing out fines, but rather getting those experiencing homelessness connected to services.

“This is only a piece. But we also have to address what services and enhancements. So the City manager is going to propose that approximately two million dollars in ARPA [American Rescue Plan] funds be used to address homelessness,” said Spencer.


About the Author:

Sydney joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2021.