Rockmart City Seal

Rethink Rockmart is a group dedicated towards revitalizing local housing, but sometimes its the after-effects of blight and lack of homes that the group has to work to solve.

With vagrancy and urban camping on the rise, Rethink’s latest meeting saw talk of introducing an Urban Camping Ordinance to the city.

Rockmart itself doesn’t have extensive problems with urban camping, but many neighboring cities and counties already have, or are planning to introduce, ordinances to better control where campers can stay and sleep. Rethink members were worried that, if Rockmart failed to introduce an ordinance of their own, then the city would become an over-centralized hub for urban camping.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but urban camping ordinances typically attempt to restrict camping on public property.

The City of Ringgold, for example, prohibits people from camping, sleeping, and storing personal property in public parks or any private property.

There are still some opportunities to urban camp, but the city can better control where it happens through their ordinance.

In the meantime, Rockmart Code Enforcement Officer Bryan Richardson and Rockmart Police Chief Randy Turner have been hard at work enforcing the codes and laws already established. Both gave reports during the August 29 meeting, where Turner showed interest in a new ‘pre-arrest diversion’ facility in Rockmart.

Typically, officers have to either bring individuals to the hospital or the jail, but some of the people Turner interacts with are very minor offenders who aren’t quite fit for either. A pre-arrest diversion facility offers a third option designed to offer resources and aid for those who need it most – such as the homeless.

The Atlanta and Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative is an organization that has worked to put the idea into action, and through it, many small-time offenders who could be sent to jail under normal circumstances are instead given training, mental health treatment, and other help.

“If an individual is accepted into PAD, they will not be arrested at that time,” the organization writes on its website. “Instead, the Care Navigation team will work with them to meet any immediate basic needs and create a wellness plan for emergency housing, mental health treatment, drug treatment, job training, and more.”

While the concept of a pre-arrest diversion facility in Rockmart is still only talk, Turner suggested it would be a positive improvement in the city since hospitals aren’t always willing or capable of admitting those in police custody.

“So with pre-arrest diversion, the concept is, you may or may not have charges on someone- that doesn’t mean you have to take them to jail,” Turner said. “For somebody that is willing to get help, wants help, and is reaching out- we need another option for them besides jail.”

More information on pre-arrest diversion can be found by visiting http://prearrestdiversion.org/.

Those who have their own input on items such as these should consider visiting the next Rethink Rockmart meeting planned for September 26. More information about the group can be found by visiting https://www.facebook.com/rethinkrockmart.

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