Over objections from his own administration, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill that makes it a crime for the homeless to sleep on state-owned lands, such as under highway overpasses and bridges, reports Business Insider.
Meanwhile, in California, The Guardian reports that as a result of authorities’ crackdowns on homelessness banning people from camping in certain spots, at least 200 unhoused people live outside in a remote stretch of dessert in LA County.
The Missouri law states that “no person shall be permitted to use state-owned lands for unauthorized sleeping, camping, or long-term shelters.” The first offense gets a warning, and the second gets a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by 15 days in prison, or a $750 fine, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Cities that don’t “enforce any ordinances prohibiting public camping, sleeping, or obstruction of sidewalks,” can be sued by the Missouri attorney general.
Those “with a higher per-capita homelessness rate than the state average will not receive further state funding” until they lower their per-capital homelessness rate or enforce statewide bans, the legislation said.
The legislation also dictates that cities can only use state and federal funds to build temporary camps for the homeless, instead of permanent housing.
Since the bill’s passage, service providers and cities are scrambling to understand what the legislation means, reports the Missouri Independent.
“There’s been no clarity or guiding information issued from the governor’s office or from any state agencies at this point,” said Sarah Owsley, director of policy and advocacy for Empower Missouri, which advocates on behalf of low-income residents.
“We have reached out to [Missouri Housing Development Commission] staff, who also similarly don’t seem to really understand it.”
According to Owsley, part of Missouri officials’ lack of understanding of how to implement the law stems from the fact that the legislation originated from a template bill written by a conservative think-tank in Austin, Tx., called the Cicero Institute.
In California, The Guardian reports that a crackdown by authorities has forced at least 200 unhoused people to live outside in a remote stretch of dessert in LA County, battling the extremes. The authorities banned people from camping in certain spots, giving out citations for “loitering” and related violations and conducting encampment sweeps that advocates say destroy people’s belongings.
Data obtained by The Guardian shows that the coroner’s office has logged 246 deaths of unhoused people in the city of Lancaster and the surrounding area since 2015, including 18 deaths in the desert and 29 fatalities so far this year.
Residents are scattered in small communities dispersed throughout the desert, with some couples and individuals in isolated pockets on their own while others cluster together for safety and support.