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Prop 256 garnering attention of charitable organizations, residents in Indy

The proposal would require charitable organizations to register with OPHS
Free food giveaway
Posted at 11:41 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 23:41:33-04

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

"We're not squeamish to anything that happens downtown. We wanted to live in an area that is diverse and represents the whole community," Sullivan said.

However, Sullivan says something has changed within the last two years.

"These groups come downtown, park, and start passing out food. Dozens of people show up and then, there's trash everywhere," Sullivan said.

That is just one part of the problem according to Sullivan.

"There are always arguments or fights that break out. You can see some of them in line who keep their head down to avoid trouble," Sullivan said. "The war on poor people is letting that predation happen day after day after day and not doing anything about it."

Sullivan says he's called 911 several times after seeing fights break out at the food giveaway sites. In May, a woman was stabbed to death near one of those sites. Although police did not connect the stabbing to the free food distribution, Sullivan says he saw it all unfold, even calling 911 before it happened.

"It just has to stop. The murder was the tipping point for me," Sullivan said.

Citing concerns from residents like Sullivan, City-County Council President Vop Osili, Vice-President Zach Adamson and Councillor Kristin Jones introduced Proposal 256 at Monday night's council meeting. Prop 256 would require charitable organizations to register with the city's Office of Public Health and Safety before being allowed to pass out free food, clothing, or other basic necessities.

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

"There are issues of litter and violence and other situations and 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," Councillor Adamson said at Monday night's council meeting.

Protesters rallied at Lugar Plaza and inside the Council Chambers on Monday. Different representatives from several mutual aid organizations are adamantly opposed to any type of registration system, fearing it will get in the way of the work they do.

"We don't feel like we need to register anything with the city. Even though they say they're concerned with litter and trash, f you look around, there's trash everywhere," Stephen Lane, a volunteer with Indy Hope Packages, said. "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."

RELATED: Indy Council wants organizations to register before giving out free food, necessities to those in need

Sullivan, however, thinks the good organizations that aren't having issues won't be impacted by Proposal 256.

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

A tentative public hearing on this proposal has been scheduled for August 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the City-County Building. They'll also be discussing Proposal 250 which will allocate $76,000 from the 2022 Budget to the Office of Public Health and Safety (Consolidated County Fund) to purchase two public restrooms and cleaning services for the public's use at the distribution sites at Old City Hall and Babe Denney Park.