Proposed Ordinance Change Impacts OKC Homeless Population

Tuesday, October 24th 2017, 10:48 pm
By: News 9

A proposed change to Oklahoma City’s median safety ordinance was introduced on Tuesday at the City Council meeting.

In 2015, an ordinance was passed prohibiting sitting, standing or staying on medians based on the size of the median.

This caused some pushback from organizations like the Homeless Alliance and ACLU. It meant panhandler’s couldn’t ask for money or food on many medians in the city.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the city attorney talked about proposed changes to this ordinance. Rather than basing it on the size of the median, it would be based on the speed limit of the street. Pedestrians would not be allowed to sit, stand or stay on medians on streets with speed limits over 40 miles per hour or higher. The attorney said it is an effort to improve public safety, reducing the risk of serious injury or death if someone were to be hit by a car on a median.

The Homeless Alliance said any changes to this median safety ordinance impacts the homeless population the most.

Dan Straughan, Executive Director of The Homeless Alliance, said his concerns are beyond median safety or panhandling. He said, “I would hope, while I expect the amended ordinance to pass, that our elected representatives would also recognize there is further work we can do as a community to help people in poverty.” He suggests affordable housing, job placement services, mental health services and more.  

Chris Willis, a homeless man, said he doesn’t like to be on the median anyway for safety reasons, but he knows a lot of people it impacts. “I’ve heard about people getting tickets for that,” said Willis, “And they can’t afford to pay that.”

A City Council meeting is scheduled on November 7th for a public hearing and vote. If the changes are adopted, it would take effect on December 7th.