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Elkhart council votes down homeless ordinance which would have banned camping on public property

Aaron Mishler and Arvis Dawson Elkhart
Screenshot of Elkhart City Council mean
Aaron Mishler, left, talks during an Oct. 2, 2023 meeting of the Elkhart City Council as he votes against the proposed ban on camping on public property.

In a meeting that saw over an hour of debate on the topic, Elkhart council members Monday voted down the city’s proposed homeless ordinance.

The ordinance would have allowed police to take people deemed to be camping on public property to Faith Mission so long as beds were available.

But after multiple meetings of debate, enough council members felt the ordinance wasn’t cleanly worded or wouldn’t address the root issues of homelessness.

“If the point of this ordinance is to create an incentive to go to the Faith Mission … They always say you get more with honey than with vinegar. Well this is a lot of vinegar right here that I don’t think our community needs," said Elkhart council member Aaron Mishler

That’s councilman Aaron Mishler, the sole Democrat who joined the council’s four Republicans in voting against the resolution. Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson’s administration wrote the bill after hearing from city police that officers felt they lacked the means to remove encampments.

"This is not going to solve everything," said Corinne Straight, Elkhart's director of communications. "What we aim to do with wthis is to continue to give people access to resources. Incentivize them."

Earlier this year, Goshen passed a nearly identical ordinance, as have other cities around the county. Federal courts have generally upheld such local laws so long as there are beds available in homeless shelters.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.