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Madison County Tenants Union marches against nationwide, statewide homelessness crises

Organizers with the Madison County Tenants Union marched through Berea Monday.
Shepherd Snyder
Organizers with the Madison County Tenants Union marched through Berea Monday.

Members of the Madison County Tenants Union marched in Berea Monday in response to the state legislature’s passage of House Bill 5, also known as the Safer Kentucky Act.

Marchers say the law criminalizes homelessness by banning street camping and expanding Kentucky’s Stand Your Ground law, which would allow the use of force against illegal campers by property owners.

Members also raised awareness to the Supreme Court case Grants Pass v. Johnson, comparing discussions to the homeless provisions in the Safer Kentucky Act.

The case’s verdict would clarify whether city officials across the United States can penalize homeless people for sleeping outside with jail time or fines.

“You can't make it illegal and then put people in jail and turn them into criminals because now they have a record and makes it even more difficult for them,” union member Wendy Mondragon said. “How can anybody get anywhere if they're always starting from step one?”

Union member Margaret Sites says they’re marching to repeal those provisions, and to ask local lawmakers to fund permanent emergency housing in Madison County.

“We are actually seeing homeless people in Madison County now who have absolutely nowhere to go, and we don't have permanent emergency shelter in our county,” Sites said. “We did have seasonal winter shelter, but they don't have the funding to keep those beds open year round.”

Current seasonal housing shelters include Madison Home in Richmond and Room In The Inn in Berea.

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Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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