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Lancaster County commissioners vote to put handles on city benches in light of homeless problem

LANCASTER, Pa. -- County commissioners are working to fix the homeless issue in Lancaster County.

On Tuesday, Lancaster County commissioners voted to put handles on benches, which is supposed to stop homeless people from sleeping on them, sparking a debate on whether or not it’s right.

“I think its appropriate to discourage people from sleeping on the benches, that’s not what they are for," said Joshua G. Parsons, Lancaster County Commissioner.

Lancaster County Commissioner Joshua Parsons says there’s two reasons he thinks the handles are a step in the right direction.

“It helps people with mobility issues who may have a hard time standing up, it gives them something to hold on to, but second it also discourages people from sleeping on the benches," said Parsons.

Parsons says homeless people sleeping on benches has been an ongoing issue in the county, especially in front of the Lancaster government building on Chestnut Street.

“Some camp out or use drugs or go to the bathroom near exits and that’s a problem," added Parsons.

But not everyone agrees with the decision.

County Commissioner, Craig Lehman, who was not immediately available for comment, is opposed to the decision.

IN A FACEBOOK POST LEHMAN WROTE IN PART QUOTE — “This is targeted at persons experiencing homelessness. If accessibility was truly the reason, it would be a simple matter of installing a limited # of handles.”

“They don’t have anywhere else to go, where are they gonna go? They don’t have any place to go," said Henrietta Torain.

“Well they won’t be laying down, they will only be able to get one position, and there will be a place for other people who get off the bus, especially the handicapped who want to sit there," said Richard Wert

Parsons says he’s also looking to address the root problem to homelessness and come up with a long-term solution.

“Get people out of our parks and not sleeping on sidewalks by public buildings, but actually into shelters. Also addressing mental illness, addressing addiction and then trying to get people to get jobs," added Parsons

The county’s facilities department plans on putting bench handles on benches around the government building later this week.