New Missouri Homeless Laws Makes Sleeping Outside Illegal
- Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed “House Bill 1606,” which will go into effect on January 1, 2023.
- The new law, House Bill 1606, makes sleeping on public property illegal, and perpetrators will be subject to a warning for the first offense and a Class C misdemeanor for subsequent offenses.
- Despite the purpose of the new law, there is a lot surrounding controversy as many are questioning whether this legislation will benefit society in the long run.
Missouri currently has approximately 6,527 homeless people, or around 1.13% of its population. As the state government wishes to lower this statistic, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a new bill earlier this month that will go into effect on January 1, 2023, criminalizing homelessness. The new law makes it more difficult for homeless people to roam public properties, which in turn is causing high levels of controversy among state residents and across the nation.
Details of the New Missouri Homeless Laws
Missouri Governor signed "House Bill 1606," a new law to help those experiencing homelessness. The law aims to help Missouri residents who are experiencing homelessness gain assistance to help them re-enter society.
Although this law prevents state and federal funding from creating permanent housing for homeless people, the funds aim to build temporary camps so homeless people can access substance abuse and mental health treatment.
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This thought process was developed by the Cicero Institute, a think tank based out of Texas. In addition to Missouri, other states such as Tennessee and Texas have utilized this strategy to implement similar laws in their respective states.
Although Missouri does not have a large homeless population compared to other states, Parson also wishes to reduce the number of homeless people sleeping outside on the streets and in other public places. If anyone is sleeping on public property, they will face a series of escalating consequences.
Penalties of the New Missouri Homeless Laws
First-time offenders will be issued a warning by state and city police officers and offered to take them to shelters and other short-term housing.
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However, suppose a homeless person decides to continue sleeping on state property and ignores these options. In that case, they will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a $750 fine and/or 15 days in jail alongside a criminal record.
Furthermore, there are penalties not only for homeless people but for Missouri cities too. If some cities within Missouri decide not to enforce the ban, they will face punishments. The Missouri Governor mentioned that the Attorney General of Missouri would sue the towns that do not enforce these laws.
Thus, the Governor is imposing an ultimatum on these cities to follow the new law or face the consequences of having less state funding for city projects, ultimately diminishing any long-term plans of improving the local areas.
Some parts of Missouri have a higher homeless population rate than the state average. So, another restriction being put on these local cities is that those with a higher homeless per capita rate than the average will have their state funding removed until they have reduced this value to below the threshold.
Financial Impacts of the New Missouri Homeless Laws
Although the main purpose of this law is to get homeless people off the streets, it could also result in negative financial repercussions. The most significant negative impact of these new Missouri homeless laws is the lack of funding some cities will receive.
Since those cities with a homeless per capita rate exceeding the average will have access to lower funding, they cannot take the same steps as other parts of Missouri to help improve their community and reduce the number of homeless people. In addition, as long as they are above the threshold, these cities will struggle with getting access to much-needed funding, meaning that there is a possibility they may not be able to receive state funding for an undisclosed amount of time.
When these cities do not have sufficient money, significant changes cannot be made, meaning the number of opportunities available to the public will become stagnant and, in some cases, regress, negatively impacting the local economy.
Benefits of New Missouri Homeless Laws
The main benefit of House Bill 1606 law being implemented is the abundance of resources that are now available to homeless people. This law's primary purpose is to rehabilitate homeless people so they can re-take control of their lives and move in a positive direction. By providing them with mental health tools and substance use rehab, those who were once without a home now have a possible chance of turning their life around.
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Cons of New Missouri Homeless Laws
One of the biggest drawbacks of this new law is the possibility of some non-profits having their funding reduced or cut altogether. As these Missouri organizations have provided help to countless homeless people over the years, some of their services may not be required as the Missouri Governor wishes to take the state in another direction.
As mentioned earlier, cities with a higher homeless per capita than the state average will have their access to state funding removed until the value has been lowered. Consequently, the major setback from this decision is that cities with lower budgets will have more difficulty taking steps in the right direction and providing the necessary resources to homeless people. In addition, this restriction limits a city's moves to make it a better place, leading to a regressing quality of life and opportunity for society members.
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Although this new law helps homeless people access resources to overcome their personal problems and progressively re-enter society, the threat and possibility of attaining a criminal record are counterintuitive. For example, if a homeless person tries to apply for a job, and the hiring manager sees they have a criminal record, the chances of them being hired are lowered. As a result, it may lead to them returning to their old ways, resulting in a waste of tax dollars and resources.
The Money Wrap-Up
Time will tell whether this new law will have the desired effect Parson hopes it will have. Despite the controversy, Parson believes this implementation will help reduce the number of homeless people on the streets of Missouri and increase the number of people re-entering society. However, as with nearly every law, there will not be a consensus, and the only way to determine whether this implementation is a success or not is by measuring its impacts.
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