Tyler officials address homeless problem on square

By Reid Kerr - bioemail
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Police are responding to calls about the homeless and people loitering on the square. The City of Tyler and private businesses have sunk a lot of money into revitalizing the area. They say they want to make sure people feel comfortable here.

On any given workday, the Tyler square is teeming with people in motion, going somewhere. However, some are not. The City of Tyler wants that to change.

"We've gotten some feedback from business owners that they want their customers and people they're trying to attract to the square to be safe," Susan Guthrie with the City of Tyler said. "We have talked with the city's chief of police and he agreed to have an officer make this part of their beat, and really be a visible presence downtown. It will really make people who are visiting our downtown feel safe."

According to police, while loitering and panhandling aren't state offenses, police do patrol the square, checking for outstanding warrants.

"We would only cite somebody who was actually breaking the law," Guthrie said. "That's what our goal and objective is."

With a homeless problem on the square, just two blocks north sits the Salvation Army with beds available. They say they're here to help, but they understand.

"You have people that are loitering around, and they're concerned how that looks in the town," Said Salvation Army Director of Residential Services Steve Houston. "A lot of them are probably people who are in our program or have been in our program, and are not utilizing the services. We have certain criteria they must meet while they're here."

So, while the homeless have options, the City of Tyler says their square shouldn't be one of them. The laws in Texas are a bit strange. For example, state law says you can't panhandle from the street, but on the sidewalk, it is fine.

Tyler police say they're working with the City of Tyler to check our local statutes to see what exactly can be done here.

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