INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis City-County Council is aiming to strike a balance between giving to those in need and ensuring public safety.
On Monday night, the council introduced Prop 256 which will require organizations that give donations to those in need to register with the Office of Public Health and Safety.
Noting evidence that charitable distributions of food, clothing and other items cause extensive littering in public areas, the council is aiming to hold organizations responsible for the clean-up efforts.
Registration for organizations would be free-of-charge but would hold the organization responsible for property damage, crime and littering done to public areas during charitable donations.
Fines resulting from breaking the rules of registration would run between $250-500.
A protest against Prop 256 was held before the meeting at Lugar Plaza. Several different mutual aid organizations came together in solidarity, standing against the proposal.
"We just feel like it's getting in the way of the work we're trying to do," Stephen Lane, a community activist who volunteers with Indy Hope Packages, said. "We don't feel like we need to register anything with the city. Even though they say they're concerned with litter and trash, if you look around, there's trash everywhere."
Lane says the work mutual aid organizations do is important and needed.
"We try to fill in that gap and fill in those cracks left bare through city government neglect and our non-profits that just can't handle the load," Lane said.
Councillor Zach Adamson, one of three sponsors for Prop 256, says it's a necessity because of the problems that have been reported to them at sites of free food distribution.
"Prop 256 is a proposal that we have that will aim to consolidate efforts around food distribution," he said. "There are issues of litter and violence and other situations. While they may be happening with only a few organizations, they're still happening and they require the city to take steps to mitigate those."
In Fall 2020, WRTV reported on a similar proposal, 291, put forth by Republican Councillor Mike Hart. It was shot down by the Democratically-Controlled Council. It, too, would have required organizations to register with the city to pass out free items. Although differences exist between the two proposals, protesters are convinced 256 is more or less the same, just put forth by the Democrats. Councillor Adamson pushes back on that assertion.
"It is the exact opposite. It is a supported proposal that actually has additional measures to support the proposal. There are bathrooms associated with this. There are cleaning stations associated with it. DPW and cleaning companies will help keep the areas clean. That didn't exist before."
Proposal 256 will now go to the committee for discussion by the councillors. The public will get to weigh in as well. We will follow up when there are updates on this proposal.