As a “last resort,” Cave Spring City Council members are considering a homeless ordinance to deal with its small homeless population.

The issue began a few years ago when there were several people housed in apartments near the Cave Spring United Methodist Church. The owner of the property was providing shelter for people who had nowhere else to go and no support.

However, recently the ownership of the property has changed and now many of these people are homeless and have been living under the bridge or the downtown gazebo.

Rev. Garrod Kinsey of Cave Spring Baptist Church said he’s tried working with several homeless people to find room at a shelter in Rome, but they refuse help, saying they’d rather stay in the area.

Another Cave Spring resident said he had a woman that kept coming back to his residence asking for money. He eventually had to tell her that he would call the police on her if she came back to his property.

Mayor Rob Ware pointed out that if a person is on private property, they could be cited for trespassing, but it becomes more difficult on public property.

While the homeless numbers in Cave Spring aren’t substantial, it has created a nuisance problem. Cave Spring Police Chief Greg Webb reached out to City Attorney Frank Beacham about drafting an urban camping ordinance, similar to the one passed by Rome City Commissioners in 2019.

The urban camping ordinance would define what camping is, what a public area is and prohibit people from camping in public areas. It would also prohibit people from “interfering with the ingress and egress of businesses and public property of any area” Beacham said.

“It would also provide that any person has to be given warning before they issue a citation... if someone abandons their gear, it would be treated like any confiscated or abandoned property,” the attorney said at a Tuesday city council work session.

Back in 2019, Rome city commissioners passed urban camping and pan handling ordinances to offset the large homeless population camping out in public areas, such as in front of businesses, in parking garages and along city sidewalks.

Alli Mitchell with United Way pointed out that there was a backlash from the community when they were floating the ideas and Cave Spring could face similar repercussions. However, she said she can work with council members on alleviating some of the homeless issues and helping these people find shelter.

“Our problem is we have people just refusing help,” Ware said. “This is sort of our last resort.”

The city already has a pan handling ordinance in place, but Beacham is working on an urban camping ordinance that would work for the small town, using Rome’s ordinance as a framework.

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