On Monday night Pueblo City Council voted 3-4 against a proposed ordinance prohibiting people from sitting or lying in public areas of the Downtown Business Area during regular business hours, otherwise known as a sit-lie ordinance.
Council President Heather Graham proposed the ordinance after she said many business owners in the downtown area had complained of people experiencing homelessness camping out in front of their stores.
Lee Newhard owns Great Divide, a bicycle shop downtown, and said some mornings he has had issues with people sleeping in front of the door to his shop and trash buildup around the perimeter.
"I have some steps on the side there that people like to sit and you'll see some food containers and stuff like leftovers and needles," he said. "A lot of that happens after we've closed up or in the morning before we're here."
The business owners in favor of the ordinance that came to Monday's council meeting said they were worried about Pueblo's reputation with a large and visible homeless population. Many pushed for police to do more when responding to calls about people sleeping in public areas. Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller said at the meeting the department has four officers designated to respond to calls about homelessness, loitering, and panhandling.
Some council members brought up the loitering ordinance already in place in Pueblo. They argued that the loitering ordinance isn't enforced and neither would the new sit-lie ordinance if passed. Other pushback against the ordinance came from individuals at the meeting saying the ordinance would criminalize homelessness and that it was too broad for law enforcement to effectively police. District 3 Representative Sarah Martinez said there should be a separate line other than 911 to call when reporting an issue with homelessness.
The council took public comment for around two hours before turning the ordinance down in a 3-4 vote.
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