BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — The Bristol, Virginia City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance making it illegal to camp on public sidewalks and rights-of-way.
The ordinance makes it “a Class 4 misdemeanor for any person within the city to camp on any city-owned street, sidewalk, alley, or other public rights-of-way.”
City leaders hope the measure will help address the city’s growing homeless population.
“The answer to solving our homeless problem is you need a holistic approach that does address mental health, substance abuse, those type of things, and that’s a larger discussion to have,” Vice-Mayor Neal Osborne said. “But in the interim, it is incredibly important that our residents feel safe and that our businesses are able to thrive and do business without concern for their customers being runoff or being in danger.”
Osborne said passing the ordinance was the “right move to make.”
“We can’t let this problem go on the way it has and the way it’s escalated in the past six months,” he said.
Council members Bill Hartley and Kevin Winguard said it will take the community coming together in order to address homelessness in the long term.
City Manager and Attorney Randall Eads said the ordinance will not take effect for 30 days per the city’s charter.