Kenai repeals laws on public sleeping, begging and curfew

Kenai City Hall
Kenai City Hall (Sabine Poux/KDLL)

The City of Kenai on Wednesday repealed three pieces of code that prohibited public sleeping and begging.

Police Chief David Ross brought forward the ordinance. He said the items were outdated or unenforceable.

“This is something that the city attorney and I have talked about for some time and gone over, the fact that these sections of code are not enforceable as they are,” Ross said at Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

The statutes in question ban public sleeping, begging and loitering and enforce a 10 p.m. curfew for children under 16. Ross recommended axing these items because their definitions are vague, or they’re no longer enforceable under changing laws.

“Some of these could be re-written, but as they are, they just don’t meet a good legal standard, and so for us to enforce them as they are could be problematic for our enforcement officers, and problematic for the city,” he said.

Ross said he doesn’t think repealing the statutes will affect the police department’s enforcement capabilities. He said the department hasn’t issued citations under these statutes in “recent history.”

This ordinance comes amid national discussions around enforcement of public sleeping and other laws related to homelessness. A recent 9th Circuit Court ruling determined cities cannot punish people for sleeping outside if they do not provide shelter.

City Attorney Scott Bloom said the best course of action for now is to repeal the statues and potentially reintroduce them once other cases are settled.

“For example, sleeping, prohibiting sleeping on public property, right now the U.S. Supreme Court has some cases under advisement,” Bloom said. “And we’d like to see how that ruling comes out before we make our change. (Because) that would certainly apply to us, because it’s dealing with federal constitutional rights.”

During discussion, one council member expressed hesitance about removing the curfew. But Ross said Kenai is actually behind the times on repealing that rule.

“We are the only municipality left on the peninsula that has a curfew,” he said. “Seward repealed theirs years ago, I couldn’t find one in the City of Soldotna.”

The ordinance passed unanimously. The council’s next meeting will be on June 5.

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