Grosse Pointe City ‘builds in a compassionate approach’ to deal with homeless individuals

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 22, 2023


GROSSE POINTE CITY — While no one appears to be trying to live on the streets of Grosse Pointe City, officials said they wanted to have the tools and regulations in place to deal with such an issue, should it happen.

As City Public Safety Director John Alcorn explained, the camping in public places ordinance prohibits camping on public property, which is defined as cooking, sleeping or living in a public space outdoors. The ordinance — which was unanimously approved by a vote of the Grosse Pointe City Council Jan. 23 — is mostly aimed at discouraging homeless individuals from taking up residence on City streets, although it prohibits recreational camping in public spaces as well.

Alcorn said the ordinance “builds in a compassionate approach” by making sure that any individuals who might try to live on the streets are offered help first. In addition, Alcorn said the ordinance “also provides guidance for situations where inclement weather could be a factor, and to involve the Crisis Intervention Team to assist if a camping problem arises.”

The ordinance reads, in part: “The police department shall attempt to keep a current list of shelters in the Metro-Detroit area. When there is inclement weather, police officers shall not enforce the ordinance if there are no temporary shelters or safe havens available. Whenever possible, members of the police department Crisis Intervention Team will be called on to assist with enforcement of this ordinance.”

Alcorn said he wanted to have this rule on the books in case it’s ever needed, because it gives his officers tools and a policy to follow in these situations.

“We don’t have a problem with this in Grosse Pointe City,” Alcorn said.

City Councilman Dave Fries asked if the ordinance covered lewd behavior.

City Attorney Chuck Kennedy said lewd behavior is forbidden under the terms of a different law.

“That’s already covered,” Kennedy said.

The ordinance forbids camping of a recreational nature in public spaces, as well as setting up camp as a primary residence.

However, the ordinance won’t prevent the City’s annual camping event for kids at Neff Park. Instead, it bans camping “without the express written permission of the City.”

“It seems very reasonable,” City Councilman Christopher Walsh said.