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Kenai Council will consider repealing prohibitions of public sleeping, loitering

City of Kenai _ Poux
Sabine Poux

The City of Kenai will take up an ordinance this week to remove three offenses related to sleeping in public, loitering and begging from the city’s municipal code.

In a memo, Kenai Police Chief David Ross says the three items are outdated, unenforceable and may even violate individual rights because of evolving regulations since the code was written.

The first change addresses a section of the code that bans begging in public places, which Ross wrote can no longer legally be banned on its own. The next proposed cut is a ban on loitering on the streets or in schools, which he said is inadequately defined in code. The third section addresses a curfew for children under 16.

Ross writes that the legality of public sleeping has been national news recently due to a 9th Circuit Court ruling about Boise, Idaho that determined punishing people for sleeping outdoors when no shelter is available is cruel and unusual. The Supreme Court has taken up a related case about homelessness in a small Oregon town. The Municipality of Anchorage joined a group of cities asking the Supreme Court to review both of those decisions. But under current law, Ross said, Kenai’s ban is not enforceable.

At the end of his memo, Ross recommends repealing all three rules now, and reenacting them in the future if necessary. He said the Kenai Peninsula has not issued any citations for these offenses in “recent history."

The Kenai City Council will vote on the ordinance Wednesday night at its regular meeting at 6 p.m.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.