ALPHARETTA, Ga. - Alpharetta city leaders are cracking down on the homeless in the city, but some believe their new ordinance goes too far.
The City Council gave initial approval Monday night to an ordinance that would ban so-called urban camping.
Alpharetta's homeless don’t live on park benches in the street. Instead, they live in the woods along the Big Creek Greenway. The city wants to stop the practice to get them help, but critics don't think an ordinance is the answer.
Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik found vagrant Gary Pittman deep in the woods of Westside Parkway in Alpharetta on Tuesday. He lives in a makeshift home he built out of plywood.
"(I’ve) stayed all around, went to south Georgia, went to Gwinnett, Norcross, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs," Pittman told Petchenik.
And he isn’t alone. The city estimates dozens of homeless are living in the woods and along Big Creek. City Council member D.C. Aiken said it was time for Alpharetta to address the issue.
"At this point, with no ordinance, we can't do anything and it creates a situation that's become uncomfortable for some of our citizens," Aiken said.
He said the goal isn't to criminalize homelessness.
"We want to help these people, but at this point, we can't do anything," Aiken said.
Barbara Duffy, director of North Fulton Community Charities, questions whether a law is the right answer.
"This is a bad solution to a difficult problem," Duffy said.
She added, "It doesn't solve the problem, and it may be time for our community to step up to the fact that we have a population we need to serve."
Back in the woods, a man who identified himself simply as Jay said he hopes the city doesn't force him out. He’s been living out there for two months.
“It's not a crime to be homeless,” Jay told Petchenik.
Alpharetta will take one final vote on the issue in two weeks. Other north Fulton cities -- Roswell, Johns Creek, and Sandy Springs -- already have similar laws on the books.