Groups that volunteer to feed homeless people in Pennsylvania's state capital are being banned from lots near the county courthouse and administration building because of complaints about public urination, defecation and other problems.
Dauphin County officials have told the volunteers to move on, Pennlive.com reported Sunday.
Deputy Chief Clerk Scott Burford said Citizens Bank, which rents space from the county, has complained about its ATM kiosk being turned into a “Port-A-John” and said bank workers have been harassed and heckled by homeless people.
“We have a duty to react,” said Burford, who denied claims by some homeless advocates that the ban is meant to prompt arrests of homeless people.
Liesa Burwell-Perry, who directs outreach ministries for Glad Tidings Assembly of God, said the church has been serving food to the homeless behind the county building for three years. She said it's well-lit, centrally located and said the problems encountered at the county lot aren't likely to change if the charities are forced to set up shop in other locations.
“They're kind of entrapping us because they don't have a solution and we don't know what to do,” Burwell-Perry said.
Burford said the county isn't looking to lock up or entrap the homeless, and said the “no loitering” signs being posted won't just target the homeless. The signs are also meant to deter patrons of nearby bars who park in the lots, or stop there to relieve themselves before heading home.
“I don't know that arrests are a good solution for us. We've asked for the least invasive measures and that's asking them to move on,” Burford said. “We don't want to see anybody put in jail.”
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