Houston's Homeless Ordinance Banning Public Camping Temporarily Halted
A federal judge issued Tuesday a temporary restraining order blocking the city of Houston from enforcing an ordinance that bans homeless camps in public places.
The order, issued by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt, is part of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas on behalf of three homeless individuals challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance.
The ordinance, which the Houston City Council approved back in April, prohibits temporary shelters, tents and unauthorized cooking devices in public areas.
Trisha Trigilio, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, says her organization is calling on Houston “to stop enforcing ordinances that criminalize such a basic human need” as seeking shelter.
In a statement sent out on Tuesday night, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said city officials were “disappointed in the order” but hope Judge Hoyt reconsiders when he hears the merits.
Turner also addressed the judge’s order on Wednesday speaking on Houston Matters and assured the bottom line is that he and other City officials have concluded that the homeless camps are a public health hazard after the cleaning up city crews have done since the ordinance became effective on May 12th.
“There were dead animals in the area. The soil was contaminated. Not even people who are homeless need to be in conditions that are unsafe and unsanitary, and that are prone to breed disease that can impact them, as well as the general public,” the Mayor noted.
Houston Matters also interviewed Trigilio and she said one of the problems with the enforcement of the ordinance is that many homeless people have nowhere else to go because “the emergency shelters throughout Houston are full.”
It is expected that Judge Hoyt will hold a hearing on the lawsuit in the coming weeks.
*Information in this article was curated from www.houstonpublicmedia.org.