Springfield, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — For some living on the streets of Springfield, they say sleeping outside the library is their best option.
"People that don't have a place to go have at least they can feel safe and at least somewhat in the eye of the public at least so they're not hiding in alleys or whatever,” said Mickey Henson.
A newly proposed ordinance would make it illegal for the homeless to sleep on these benches outside the Lincoln Public Library from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
"The premise is there can't be prolonged stays there, so if someone's there after hours, just like your parks, they're going to be asked to leave,” Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said.
The library's director supports the ordinance, saying he receives regular complaints about the homeless.
“It's also a public health issue having individuals out there,” director Will O’Hearn said. “They would use the restroom out there on the premise, things like that. So, it's really to have the safety and security and be used for its intended purpose as a library."
Instead, the mayor wants these people to use local shelters to access resources to get them off the streets.
"You know, there's beds available when it comes down to just going to the proper areas that permit that overnight type stay,” Mayor Langfelder said. “But the library's not one of them."
The Salvation Army says that will take things like helping the homeless find jobs, housing and resources for substance abuse and mental health.
"The real, long term goal is to find sustainability, things that will work for families so that we don't just house them for a week and send them back out into the cold,” Springfield Salvation Army Captain Jeff Eddy said.
If passed, the ordinance means homeless people, like Henson, could be ticketed and have to pay fines for sleeping on these benches.
"I feel this is a safe place,” Henson said. “It's around the police station and, you know, they're kind of observed when they're here."
The ordinance will be presented at the Committee of the Whole meeting next Tuesday and will be voted on by city council the following week.