SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Spokane City Council passed an ordinance Monday night that expands the law that makes it illegal to sit or lie on downtown sidewalks during business hours.
Supporters of the ordinance said it would help push the homeless community to use City services to get them off the street.
Those against a more strict ordinance said it is going to punish them for being homeless and that the policy does not work in cities across the country.
The previous rules had banned sitting or laying on a sidewalk from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. That did not include bennches or any place meant for someone to sit down.
Opponents said many of the homeless sleep on the sidewalk so if the ban is stretched until midnight the homeless would have to wait later to go to bed.
Supporters said this is a step to help them use the programs already available and that the City spends millions of dollars each year.
"Our goal is to get them into transitional services, you know, I don't think any of us really want to say I want to empower you to lay on the sidewalk, that's not a lifestyle I think we want for our citizens,” said Spokane City Councilman Mike Allen.
"Seems like we just want to criminalize homelessness and rush to judgment on this issue, instead of waiting for those good proposals that are in the works right now,” said Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart.
Opponents said the City was currently looking into helping the homeless and should not rush to vote on the issue. Supporters said this would help Downtown stores by creating a friendlier environment for customers and it will help them feel safer.