BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)– Since the pandemic, more men, women and children have been found living in tents.

“We have babies that are impacted,” said Reverend Alexis Anderson, executive director of PREACH. “We have children in the foster care system that when they age out.”

On Wednesday, the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council once again debated a possible ban on camping in public spaces. If approved, campers would be fined up to $200 or put in jail for up to 15 days.

“This particular ordinance will go away, and we will start things comprehensively,” said Anderson.

The ordinance was proposed by council members Dwight Hudson and Laurie Adams. They proposed due to the increase in litter, crime, and drug use, there needs to be a way to guide the homeless into other forms of services.

Unfortunately, many homeless do not take house services due to mental health issues. It’s recommended to provide other forms of work, through social workers and mental health experts to get them the proper care.

During the meeting, it was continued debate on both sides trying to figure out what’s the best way to slow down the homeless population in East Baton Rouge Parish. While the mayor’s office has been hugely involved in trying to solve the homeless population, they have concerns about the ordinance.

“Homelessness has been a big issue for the mayor for well over a year,” said Darryl Gissel, chief administrative officer.

Gissel himself said they have concerns about this ordinance. Gissel suggests services like “Hot Teams” and rapid re-housing programs are a better fit.

“Those hot teams are made up of law enforcement officials who are specially trained to deal with the homeless and also social workers and mental health providers,” said Gissel.

The mayor’s office currently works with the Young Women’s Christian’s Association for rapid re-housing.
On Wednesday, the Metro Council voted to give the YWCA half a million dollars for the program in the Baton Rouge area.

“The program is comprehensive, we don’t just provide housing, we try to connect people with other services,” said Donna Collins, community services director of YWCA.

City Council Member District 4 Aaron Moak said that he supports the camping ordinance. He doesn’t want East Baton Rouge Parish to end up like other major cities with large homeless populations.

“First of all, I’d like to see the ordinance pass, two, and they’re not allowed to stay on the street, then that will encourage us or people who provide the shelters to expand their services,” said Moak.

After the debate, the Metro Council decided to defer until next month.