KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The new year is already off to a sour start for some. Starting Sunday, it will be a crime to sleep on state-owned land in Missouri.
That includes streets, parks and underneath bridges and overpasses.
Some say it unfairly targets the homeless but the lawmaker behind the bill claims it’ll offer resources to those who need it the most.
Eric Burger with Shelter KC is concerned about the new law criminalizing those without a home.
“The homeless population is very complex,” he said. “The majority of the homeless are more likely to be a single mom who’s couch surfing than necessarily the folks who are camping out in MoDOT property.”
The lawmaker who sponsored the bill said it’s intended to help the homeless, not turn them into criminals.
“It gets them off the street and into an area that’s safer,” said Rep. Bruce DeGroot, R-Ellisville. “They’re screened for drug and alcohol. They are tried to give programs and hopefully they will get a hot meal and a place to shower.”
Instead of using state and federal funds to build affordable housing, under the new law, municipalities must build temporary camps offering resources.
The law also requires that law enforcement patrol encampments to prevent violence.
For local governments that don’t enforce the law, Missouri’s attorney general could sue them. Still, Burger explains the law can only do so much.
“Housing alone isn’t going to solve those issues. There has to be some changes in those people’s lives, and that’s what we’re dedicated here at Shelter KC to do,” he said.
FOX4 called and email KCPD and the City of Kansas City, Missouri to see how they’d enforce this but never received a response. We also asked what measures are already in place but didn’t get that information either.