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Indianapolis City-County Council looks at restrictions for serving homeless population

UPDATE: A tweet from the Indianapolis City-County Council on Wednesday night says, “Committee has voted against Proposal 291 as amended. Chair @LeroyRobinsonD1 and Councillor J Evans have expressed faith in @CouncilorHart’s good intentions but say they do not believe Proposal 291 was the correct instrument to address his concerns.

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will vote on Proposal 291 Wednesday. The proposal calls for restrictions on large distributions of goods to 10 or more people within the city limits.

There were dozens of people protesting the proposal outside the City-County Building Wednesday during the meeting.

A few charitable and religious groups told News 8 Proposal 291 is an attack on their faith. They said serving the poor should not have government interference.

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Hearts and Hands Homeless Outreach passes out warm meals to those in need before Thanksgiving every year.

Proposal 291 will prohibit Hearts and Hands and other non-government entities from hosting large distributions of items to 10 or more people without a one-time registration with the Office of Public Health and Safety.

City-County Council member Michael-Paul Hart said It’s already been a rule for large distributions to not impede traffic on city streets and sidewalks.

“This policy can inadvertently hurt, and punishing people during these times who are trying to do community service it’s just very deterring,” said Tiffanie Ditlevson, Senior Vice Commander of VFW Post 1120.

A non-government entity will also have to notify the Office of Public Health and Safety the location, day and time 48 hours before a planned distribution.

Paul Hart said those who do not abide by the ordinance will receive a warning, but can be cited by the Marion County Public Health Department after the first violation.

“We’ve been serving for many many years without having to tell the Office of Public Health and Safety that we’re serving,” said Seven Pillars founder Elder Coleman. “We follow every standard, we’re SERV safe certified, we meet every standard, we clean up.”

Both Coleman and Ditlevson said the proposal will hinder them from helping the poor and it shows no compassion from city leaders during a pandemic.

Ditlevson added, “We have been able to distribute jackets, coats, socks to people and sometimes it’s scheduled and sometimes it’s just very spontaneous and we are truly doing work that needs to be done. Sometimes it doesn’t have a schedule, it just needs to be done.”

City-County Council member Paul Hart said public schools are excluded from Proposal 291.

He said the proposal came after receiving several complaints from the downtown business community about litter left after large distributions of goods. He also wanted to regulate food safety and cross contamination. He said the proposal will allow the Office of Public Health and Safety, the Marion County Public Health Department and Criminal Justice and Public Health and Safety to keep track of all large distributions that are scheduled.

Proposal 291 will be passed to the full City-County Council for a final vote as early as December.

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