HOUSTON — A federal court issued a ruling yesterday that will allow a City of Houston ordinance that criminalizes homelessness to go into effect. Specifically, yesterday's decision permits the police to ticket or arrest homeless people who live in a tent on public property.
“Our clients are now at risk of being arrested just for being homeless. They have nowhere else to go,” said Trisha Trigilio, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Sheltering yourself is not a crime, it is a basic human need, and our clients will continue to fight for the dignity and the rights of Houston’s homeless population. In the meantime, and in the spirit of the season, we have called on the City to delay enforcement until they seriously explore humane alternatives to arrest—like building more affordable housing.”
Yesterday's decision reverses an earlier ruling in which the court issued a temporary restraining order against the City over its tent ban. The ACLU of Texas, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and Dechert LLP applied for the restraining order following police raids of a Houston homeless encampment in August.
“Homelessness is a public policy problem that can only be solved by housing, not by arrests,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “Enforcing these ordinances will not end homelessness; it will only displace the homeless themselves, while saddling taxpayers with the bill and creating yet another category of victimless crimes. Should the City decide to seek more effective and humane solutions to this crisis, they will find a stout ally in the ACLU of Texas. Until then, we’ll continue to defend the constitutional rights of Houston’s homeless.”