Humboldt officials consider ways to address vagrancy

HUMBOLDT — How to deal with vagrancy was discussed by the Humboldt City Council at Monday’s meeting.

The city has received numerous calls about homeless individuals, especially at Lake Nokomis Shelter, City Administrator Travis Goedken said.

“We do not have a vagrancy ordinance,” he said. ”It is not illegal to be homeless in Humboldt.”

People have asked the city to do more to get a particular individual to move along.

“We actually have taken him to the Beacon of Hope down in Fort Dodge for assistance,” Goedken said. ”He has come back.”

Social services has also been contacted.

“We are doing everything we can legally within our means to help the individual move along his way, but we don’t have anything in code other than nobody is allowed to quote camp in or be in a city park after 10:30 p.m.,” Goedken said.

“It is similar to you or I putting a blanket down in a park and having a picnic,” he added. ”I know they are not the same, but from a legal standpoint there is really no difference. You cannot be charged with loitering in a public park. You cannot forcibly remove an individual from a park, that’s kidnapping.”

Goedken has sought comments from other cities that have vagrancy ordinances. All of the responses he received were very similar to the city’s ban on being in a park after hours.

“Nobody had anything specific about vagrancy,” he said.

Mayor Dan Scholl asked how other cities deal with the problem.

The biggest thing is to get them involved with social services and get them on their way, Goedken replied.

No action was required from the council yet, just input, he said.

“I realize perhaps it isn’t a rampant situation, but it is an issue and it probably needs to be addressed,” Councilman Mike Worthington said.

The council asked Goedken to keep researching the problem.

In other business, Goedken announced that the city has been awarded a Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grant.

“This is a highly, highly competitive grant,” he said. “The award is for $171,000.”

The city is required to come up with a 5 percent match, approximately $8.500. The funds will be used to purchase air packs with training. The current air packs will fall out of industry standards within two years. The new air packs are substantially different, Goedken said. The next step is to get estimates and the city will be reimbursed for the expenditure.