Public Urination Law Pisses Off The Homeless

Jabari wanted to make a point. He was primed for a fight. On June 10, he showed up at Atlanta Community Court, ready to take on what he considers an inane law. But the Atlanta Police officer who cited Jabari for public urination failed to show up.

Jabari walked out of court with no fine, no community service, and no jail time. But it was hardly the outcome he was looking for.

Last month, Jabari , a local artist born Lefell Clary, was spending most nights at a homeless shelter near the corner of North and Piedmont avenues. He was cited for public urination after relieving himself behind some bushes in an adjacent parking lot. "It was so unfair," Jabari says. "I did everything I could to go out of sight."

Advocates for the homeless claim police use the law not to deter public urination, but to harass downtown Atlanta's homeless population. Avi Brisman, a lawyer with the Task Force for the Homeless who bailed Jabari out of jail, says that even the public bathrooms in the downtown library branch and Underground Atlanta are inaccessible to a large portion of the homeless.

"Many homeless people get turned away when they go there to use the bathroom," Brisman says.

Jabari moved to Atlanta three months ago to take advantage of Our Gallery, a Midtown art space that shows works by the city's homeless. At the time, he was spending most of his nights at the homeless shelter next door.

"The police are always looking to make an arrest," Jabari says. "It's like they're on a seek-and-destroy mission when they're over by the gallery."??

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