BY JARETT LEWIS
WHEELING — An anti-camping ordinance was launched at Tuesday night time’s Wheeling Metropolis Council assembly that might ban tenting on public property.
The proposed ordinance defines tenting as “organising, remaining in or at property for the aim of sleeping, making preparations to sleep, storing private property and/or performing cooking actions for habitation functions.” Prohibited areas for tenting could be on any avenue, sidewalk, alley, easement, nature protect, park, conservation park, parking tons, public grounds, public proper of means or beneath any bridge or viaduct.
Tenting would solely be allowed if it’s for “historic, cultural or academic functions” and if a allow is obtained.
The brand new ordinance was on first studying. If handed, it will take impact January 1, 2024. An analogous ordinance was handed not too long ago by metropolis officers in Parkersburg.
Wheeling Metropolis Council mentioned the proposed laws and the handed laws in Parkersburg throughout their earlier assembly on Oct. 3. That assembly prompted protests exterior the Metropolis-County Constructing. Individuals had been protesting the potential dismantling of the homeless encampment.
Metropolis officers had issued a two-week discover that an close to the Nelson Jordan Heart in East Wheeling was to be dismantled after complaints had been made from felony exercise. After having discussions with the Wheeling Police Division, officers opted to not challenge the discover and as a substitute to increase the homeless camp till the winter shelter opens. Nevertheless, if there’s an increase in felony exercise, trash dumping or different criminal activity, town stated it will transfer ahead with dismantling the positioning.
Council members all took a couple of minutes to talk to the ordinance, their issues with public security and for these unhoused. Council member Ben Seidler stated town has obtained quite a few stories of violence, drug exercise, public defecation and different main points coming from homeless camps that need to be addressed.
“We will’t ignore the truth that some persons are scared to make use of the strolling path or go anyplace close to Tunnel Inexperienced for authentic worry of being assaulted and we are able to’t ignore the truth that some persons are afraid to take their kids to a few of our playgrounds because of people leaving needles and sleeping beneath the playground tools with their non-public elements on show,” Seidler stated.
The council member stated 40% of arrests made by the Wheeling Police Division this summer time have included homeless people.
Seidler stated council has a accountability to discover a resolution for the homeless and to maintain the remainder of town protected.
“No one right here on council, nor town administration, is out to blatantly declare warfare on our homeless people,” Seidler stated. “We’ve got a accountability to symbolize the folks of our metropolis, together with the homeless.”
Wheeling Mayor Glen Elliott stated they can’t proceed to disregard the felony exercise that has come up from areas with homeless people.
“A few of the camp websites that we now have seen have had numerous issues with crime, trash and private property being stolen,” stated Elliot. “This is a matter that has continued to worsen in Wheeling and throughout the state.”
Elliott stated the council hopes to discover a resolution that’s useful to the homeless and to the general public security of town.
“I’m very optimistic that the Life Hub is the best way to go,” he stated.
The Life Hub, which assists the homeless throughout the winter months, has moved to its new location within the former First English Lutheran Church constructing at 35-Sixteenth St. in downtown Wheeling and is within the strategy of renovating the constructing and hiring on extra folks. It is going to be in operation for its 14th yr and is totally supported by grant funding and donations.
Elliot stated he nonetheless has questions with the construction and the funding for the Life Hub however believes it presents one of the best technique shifting ahead.
A number of dozen folks had been in attendance on the Metropolis-County Constructing for Tuesday’s assembly. Council members allowed for members of the general public to talk on the proposed ordinance.
Opponents to the ordinance argued that the homeless don’t but have a viable choice to go to for shelter and one thing extra sustainable must be finished with the winter months approaching.
The penalty for violating the ordinance could be a wonderful of between $100 and $500.
Wheeling Metropolis Council entered govt session and haven’t but made a remaining determination.