Anoka city officials are again pushing for tighter restrictions on homeless people in the city’s public areas.
A proposed ordinance would make it illegal for anyone to camp or store personal belongings on any public property.
The new ordinance would address inconsistencies in the current ordinance, which mentions only city parks, Planning Director Carolyn Braun said during a recent City Council meeting. The ordinance goes before the City Council in December for final approval.
In May, after reports of aggressive panhandling, city officials set limits on how people can ask strangers for cash. The city also added an officer to patrol the downtown district on foot, which has helped, store owners said.
Several months later, after police found people sleeping in a historic stone house off the Rum River, the council increased the number of security officers patrolling downtown and the nearby riverfront.
The city’s trails and riverfront are popular with people taking shelter after dark, Anoka police said.
Anoka Police Chief Phil Johanson said that crime in those areas hasn’t increased and that downtown is safe.
Beefing up security is more of “a quality-of-life type of issue,” he said in August. “We just want people to feel safe on the trails and in the park.”
Anoka has options for the homeless. Anoka is home to Hope 4 Youth, a drop-in center for homeless young people, and Stepping Stone Emergency Housing, a homeless shelter for adults.
Julie Jeppson, development director for Stepping Stone Emergency Housing, said the organization is not taking a position on the city ordinances, and she wouldn’t speculate on the reasons behind the new rules.
She said some homeless people don’t stay in the shelter because either they don’t know about it or because it’s full and there’s a waiting list.
Others choose to stay in their cars or in parks because the shelter has strict rules. “It’s not for everyone; you have to follow the program,” she said.
“It’s very hard to see the homelessness problem in Anoka,” Jeppson said. “We do our best because we know it’s a problem and it’s there. … It’s a suburbia problem, too.”