- A new Missouri law makes it a crime for homeless people to sleep on state-owned land, such as under bridges and overpasses.
- Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill into law over objections from his own administration that it would hurt homeless people.
- The law also says cities can only use state funding for temporary shelters, not long-term housing.
A new Missouri law makes it a crime for homeless people to sleep on state-owned land, such as under overpasses and bridges.
GOP Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill over the objections of his own administration, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Missouri House had a “moment of silent prayer” and recited the Pledge of Allegiance before passing the legislationwhich will come into force on January 1, 2023.
The law states that “no one shall be permitted to use state-owned land for sleeping, camping, or long-term shelter without permission.” The first offense receives a warning and the second a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by 15 days in jail or a $750 fine, the Post-Dispatch reported.
Cities that “fail to enforce any ordinance prohibiting public camping, sleeping, or obstructing sidewalks” can be sued by the Missouri attorney general. Those “with a per capita homelessness rate higher than the state average will not receive additional state funding” until they reduce their per capita homelessness rate or apply statewide bans, depending on the law.
In May, Valerie Huhn, the director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health appointed by Parson, wrote a letter to Governor Parson’s budget office stating that the law would negatively impact homelessness, according to the Post-Dispatch. , who saw the letter. . The governor signed the legislation in June.
“When homeless people have criminal records, it’s difficult to find housing,” Huhn wrote in the letter, according to the Post-Dispatch.
The legislation also states that cities can only use state and federal funds to build temporary camps for the homeless, instead of permanent housing, the Post-Dispatch reported. Huhn wrote that this too will have a negative impact on the unprotected community, which may not be able to find homes elsewhere.
“Private landlords across the state may choose not to rent to homeless people for a variety of reasons, such as no rental history, no or bad credit, or criminal record” , she wrote. “Stable housing is a key component of a successful recovery.”