Is It Really Illegal to Be Homeless in Missouri in 2023? Kind Of
There are a lot of new laws about to go into effect in Missouri. One is a little more controversial than others. Perhaps you've heard that it's about to become illegal to be homeless in Missouri, but is it really true? The answer is complicated.
As is usually the case, things passed by legislatures are rarely completely black and white. There's always some nuance to the real truth at the bottom of it all. My quest to find that truth began when I saw an article by NPR in Kansas City stating that as of January 1, 2023, it will be illegal to sleep on public land in Missouri. Their article states that "sleeping, camping or having a long-term shelter on state-owned land will be illegal in Missouri".
On an issue like this, I'm not willing to accept what the media is saying verbatim. Instead, I looked up the exact wording of Missouri House Bill No. 1606 which contains this new law. Here's the exact wording so you can see it yourself:
No person shall be permitted to use state-owned lands for unauthorized sleeping, camping, or the construction of long-term shelters. Any violation of this subsection shall be a class C misdemeanor; however, for the first offense such individual shall be given a warning, and no citation shall be issued unless that individual refuses to
move to any offered services or shelter.
So the answer is complicated. It's not as simple as a homeless person being arrested. The law also requires municipalities to provide a location where the homeless can be relocated to.
As Fox 2 in St. Louis reported, lawsuits are flying regarding this new Missouri law which is set to go into effect on January 1, 2023.
If you want to decide where you stand on this issue, I encourage you to not take any media's viewpoint (including mine), but go read the Missouri House bill for yourself. Note: It begins on line 55 which is quite a way down the website. Hopefully that will save you time getting to the bottom of this very controversial issue.