Prop 256 attracting the attention of charities, residents of Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — A resident of downtown Indianapolis for nearly 30 years, Brian Sullivan says he raised his family in this area for a reason.

“We’re not sensitive to anything downtown. We wanted to live in a neighborhood that was diverse and representative of the whole community,” Sullivan said.

However, Sullivan says something has changed in the past two years.

“These groups come downtown, park and start handing out food. Dozens of people show up and then there’s trash everywhere,” Sullivan said.

This is only part of the problem according to Sullivan.

“There are always arguments or fights breaking out. You can see some of them online keeping their heads down to stay out of trouble,” Sullivan said. “War on the poor lets this predation happen day after day and does nothing to address it.”

Sullivan says he called 911 several times after seeing fights break out at food distribution sites. In May, a woman was stabbed to death near one of these sites. Although police have not linked the stabbings to the free food distribution, Sullivan says he saw it all unfold, even calling 911 before it happened.

“It’s got to stop. Murder was the tipping point for me,” Sullivan said.

Citing concerns from residents like Sullivan, City Council Speaker Vop Osili, Vice-Chairman Zach Adamson and Councilwoman Kristin Jones presented Proposition 256 at Monday night’s council meeting. Proposition 256 would require charities to register with the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety before being allowed to distribute free food, clothing or other basic necessities.

If a group fails to register, they face a $250 fine after their first written warning and a $500 fine after their second written warning.

“There are issues with litter and violence and other situations and although they only happen with a few organizations, they still happen and they require the city to take action to mitigate them,” said Councilor Adamson at Monday evening’s council meeting.

Protesters gathered in Lugar Plaza and inside the council chambers on Monday. Different representatives of several self-help organizations are fiercely opposed to any type of registration system, fearing that it will hamper their work.

“We don’t feel like we need to register anything with the city. Even though they say they are concerned about litter and trash, if you look around there is There’s trash everywhere,” said Indy Hope Packages volunteer Stephen Lane. . “We’re trying to fill that void and bridge those cracks left bare by the neglect of city government and our nonprofit organizations that just can’t handle the load.”

RELATED: Indy Council wants organizations to register before distributing free food and necessities to those in need

Sullivan, however, thinks good organizations that don’t have problems won’t be affected by Proposition 256.

“It’s a mechanism to do something right away. If there’s a bad player, routine calls to the police, ambulance calls, acts of violence, the city can do something,” Sullivan said.

An interim public hearing on this proposal is scheduled for August 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the City-County Building. They will also discuss Proposition 250 which will allocate $76,000 from Budget 2022 to the Office of Public Health and Safety (County Consolidated Fund) to purchase two public restrooms and cleaning services for public use at venues. distribution of the old town hall and Babe Denney Park.