Advocates question city council on need for ordinance ‘criminalizing’ homelessness

Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 — The Bardstown City Council approved an ordinance that prohibits camping on city-owned public property at its meeting Tuesday night. The ordinance is designed to allow police to remove the homeless from staying overnight on city property, like the Farmer’s Market pavillion.


Before the council took action, Jim and Jackie Summers, co-pastors of Bardstown’s First Christian Church (D.O.C.), spoke to the city council regarding their concerns about the proposed ordinance that would prohibit the homeless from staying long periods or sleeping on city-owned public property.

The couple weren’t there representing their congregation, but were there to voice concerns about the city’s plan to deal with the homeless.

Jim Summers told the council that the homeless often have no real choices in regard to housing. Some of the homeless have problems that make them ineligible to participate in programs like Room at the Inn, he explained.

“We’re concerned we are criminalizing homelessness,” Jim Summers said. “The bigger question is where do they go and what are we as a community doing?”


He admitted that homelessness is a problem, but questioned the wisdom of putting a police officer in a position of having to enforce the ordinance regarding homelessness.

Summers called on the council to think of other avenues for a solution. “We need to think differently. We don’t need this ordinance. We have a problem, but we don’t need this ordinance.”

He suggested the city put the homeless to work on projects to beautify and clean up around town as a form of community service if found in violation of the ordinance.

Bardstown Mayor Dick Heaton said the council and the city have for years financially supported local efforts to deal with homelessness.

He said at times, women aren’t comfortable parking in the farmer’s market parking lot due to the presence of homeless people in the area.

Heaton said the city was trying to take a proactive stance. The new social worker position with the city police department will help deal with the homeless population, he explained.

“We’re not turning a blind eye to the problem,” he said.

Councilman Bill Sheckles said the ordinance gives police a tool to prevent the homeless from setting up camp on public property.

After additional discussion, the council voted unanimously to approve final reading of the ordinance.


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