A turbulent week regarding what to do about the homeless in Rome/Floyd County ticked upward Thursday with advocates for those living on the street basically agreeing with many of the provisions including in twin ordinances sought by law enforcement officers to give them more ways to assist — rather than arrest — those in need.
A packed Carnegie Training Room saw the members of the inaugural Homelessness Task Force surrounded by their supporters, ranking Rome Police administrators, county officials and others Thursday morning. It got off to a bizarre start with lengthy “explanations” from several city commissioners with those on the panel representing the homeless not being heard until 55 minutes into the meeting (see our Facebook Live coverage of the first hour).
Rome Mayor Bill Collins smoothly ran the program that also included comments from him, school board members Faith Collins and Alvin Jackson, County Commission chair Scotty Hancock, City Manager Sammy Rich and others. It was Jackson who added context to the meeting as he recalled serving on the first such task force a decade ago. The end product there — a report held up by Rich on Thursday — gathered dust for a decade.
There was perhaps too much defensive work by city officials as well. Or as one observer put it, “posturing.”
City Commissioner Craig McDaniel, saying he was among the “sneaky three” who pushed to revisit the ordinance at Monday’s meeting — without publc notice — again said it was because they wanted to give Rome Police extra “tools” to work with the homeless. They never addressed why it wasn’t included on the regular meeting agenda but instead was added following a closed door caucus session prior to the commission meeting.
Commissioner Evie McNiece addressed comments relating to the impact from the closing of Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in 2011 as something contributing to the large homeless population. That closing, she said, was out of the city’s control. She also rebuked nonprofits attending the meeting for operating within “silos” in recent years and not working together. That illicited a few stern looks.
Never addressed by the commissioners was why no one acted upon the 2009 task force findings or why there was such a rush to vote on the ordinances on Monday even though the mayor had pledged to wait until hearing more community comments. Several politicians at Thursday’s meeting have served 12 or more years on the city commission and were in office when the first task force met and formed an action plan.
Once the advocates for the homeless got their turns to speak, they surprised some by saying they actually liked many of the conditions in the proposed ordinances as they would give Rome Police more options and assistance.
The meeting ended with a note about a second round, now set for Sept. 26 at 9:30 a.m. tentatively at the Rome Civic Center.
The working draft for members of Homelessness Task Force has been provided by the city manager’s office with this caveat: “This is a draft and subject to change.”
The list includes representatives from many of the community organizations working with the homeless and others in need (Davies Shelter, Salvation Army, Community Kitchen), business leaders and city commissioners and staff members.
The meeting is set for this Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in the Carnegie Training Room next to City Hall.
The following was posted on a Facebook Event listing for the meeting:
“Please plan on attending the Homelessness Taskforce Meeting to provide your input regarding the proposed “Urban Camping” and “Panhandling” ordinances. These ordinances were previously on the Rome City Commission agenda.
“The Commission agreed to send these ordinances back to the Public Safety Committee for further study. The Committee agreed that more information needed to be gathered and studied.
“However, at the caucus meeting on Monday, discussion of the ordinances almost led to an unscheduled vote to place the ordinances back on the agenda for vote by the commissioners. (Background on the stalled vote)
“Please also help spread the word about the homelessness task force meeting on Thursday (9/12) at 9:30 a.m. in the Carnegie training room (building next to city hall). If you can’t make this meeting, please send your thoughts and concerns to all city commissioners.”
Please click here for an update from the Hope Alliance (Homeless Outreach & Partner Engagement): Click
The member list includes:
- Carrie Edge, Elevation House
- Merlene Justice, Reach Ministries
- David Domick
- Charles Love, North Rome Action Committee
- Devon Smyth, Davies Shelter
- Capt. Jason Smith, Salvation Army
- Milton Slack, city commissioner
- Sundai Stevenson, city commissioner
- Diane Lewis, The Lewis Chemical
- Faith Collins, Rome City School Board chair
- Bonny Askew
- Courtney Cash
- Charlie Williams
- Sandra Hudson, North Georgia Housing Authority
- Ira Levy, Rome businessman
- Lisa Steunkel, Community Kitchen
- Shelia Barnett
- Bud Owens, Floyd EMS Director
- Evie McNiece, city commissioner
- Sammy Rich, city manager
- Patrick Eidson, assistant city manager
- Bekki Fox, city of Rome.
- Linda Owens
- Jim Owens
- Allison Mitchel, United Way
- Bill Collins, Mayor.
- Call to Order
- Welcome & Introductions, Mayor Collins
- Recap of Creating the Homelessness Plan
- Tackling the Issues
- Defining Roles & Responsibilities
- Managing Expectation
- Establish Next Meeting Date
(Edited: one line was removed). Dear Commissioner: First, I thank you for the recent clean-up of the Silver Creek Linear Park. As a homeowner and citizen who lives adjacent to the park and one who walks it daily, please vote for the Urban Camping and Improper Use of Public Areas ordinance as originally written. With free meals, clothes, towels and furniture available at the Salvation Army on East First Avenue, the adjacent park becomes a target for abuse. Who wouldn’t want to squat along the Silver Creek Trail and Kingfisher Trail? … I suspect many members of the Homeless Task Force don’t care about the park and would surrender it. Who among them has ever seen it? As a citizen who depends upon this park for exercise and recreation I fear what some of those powerful members might do. Andy Smith, Rome.