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'It's very cruel and unusual': Advocates address new Kentucky law that bans street camping

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Posted at 5:22 PM, Jul 10, 2024

(LEX 18) — Leticia Vasquez is nervous about what will happen after Monday because that's the day the Safer Kentucky Act, a huge anti-crime effort, takes effect. The new law bans street camping, which effectively makes sleeping or living on Lexington's streets illegal.

"I'm scared to death and I'm pissed," said Vasquez, who is homeless.

Vasquez explains that while she is currently lucky to be in a shelter, she has slept outside before. It's not something she said she wants to do, but she often doesn't have a choice in the matter.

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"As long as you have a tent, you're good to go. You've got to have a place," she said. "We don't mean to do it. It's just that some of us are tired and we take medication. We have to get some sleep eventually."

Advocates for the homeless community are asking the people of Lexington to push back against the law. The Catholic Action Center and other faith groups said their message is that there is room for all people in “God’s Backyard."

"Let's protect these families," said Ginny Ramsey, the director of the Catholic Action Center.

"We need to take action," she added. "It’s never been a more critical time in the lives of folks who are experiencing homelessness."

Ramsey argued that Kentucky cannot arrest itself out of homelessness.

"They're liable to be cited and arrested and fined," Ramsey said. "You fine someone who doesn't have enough for a hotel room - what is that going to do?"

"It's very cruel and unusual," Ramsey added.

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Supporters of the Safer Kentucky Act hope it will push homeless people to seek shelter and treatment. Rep. Jared Bauman, the primary sponsor of the measure, said the bill's intent is make Kentucky safer and target repeat, violent offenders.

"We have a violent crime problem in our state," Bauman told LEX 18 in March. "We have a violent crime problem across our country. And we need to take whatever steps necessary to ensure we keep Kentuckians safe, secure, and protected."

The Catholic Action Center is asking Kentuckians to help them support the homeless community by attending their community response gathering at 7 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Consolidated Baptist Church.