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Raleigh City Council Debates Ban on Sleeping in Parks

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RALEIGH — According to the Raleigh City Council, downtown parks are becoming home to an increasing number of homeless.

Current laws prohibit sleeping or camping in the parks between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.. Tuesday, council members debated a new proposal that makes it against the law 24-hours a day.

Mayor Tom Fetzer tried to lead the City Council to vote for the new ordinance, but the Council deadlocked, four-against and four-in favor of a law. The Mayor said the law was an opportunity for Raleigh to improve the quality of life downtown.

"To allow people to sleep, to engage in public drunkenness, and to urinate or defecate in a public square is sending a wrong signal," Fetzer said. "It is not the type of behavior that a healthy society tolerates."

While some City Council members disagree on the sleep ordinance, they do agree that the homeless problem will not go away until a shelter is created.

"We just need to find a spot and work towards that, and build a facility that's big enough to keep the women and children separated from the men's side, and to feed them at the shelter itself rather than down around Moore Square," councilman John Odom said.

"What we need to do is find a spot where they can be appropriately housed. Obviously, if people are using the park, it means they don't have any other place to go," councilman Brad Thompson said.

Moore Square has been a trouble spot for police who find more than just people sleeping. Saturday, while people enjoyed Raleigh's nightlife, police arrested a homeless man who brandished an axe.

The arrest marks a disturbing trend that people who work or frequent downtown want the city to stop before someone is hurt.

"You can go to Charlotte, you just don't see it," resident Al King said. "Even in Atlanta, it's not that way. There ought to be some way they can take them somewhere to have something to do."

The City Council sent the homeless issue to their law and public safety committee to draft a new proposal.

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Kelly Wright, Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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