SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Last week the Springfield nonprofit Eden Village filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri, over a portion of the bill that they say will limit how much they can help the homeless.
Nate Schlueter, Chief Visionary Officer, said that while House Bill 1606 was overall good, a last-minute addition will work to criminalize people in “absolute poverty.”
“Essentially, this defunds organizations from state funding that get support for permanent supportive housing, and offers up band-aid solutions with no proven track record of success,” Schlueter said.
Schlueter said short-term housing will be the only way to get funding from the state, and the conditions pale in comparison to the benefits of permanent housing like what Eden Village offers.
And so, Eden Village filed a lawsuit and will be taking the state to court.
“It’s taking money from permanent housing and applying it to a [strongly] suggested solution of parking lot tent-type of concentration camp cities that provide mental health services and addiction recovery services but don’t end homelessness,” Schlueter said.
Also in the bill, the criminal penalty for camping or sleeping on state property, after an initial warning, would carry up to a Class C misdemeanor.
A statement provided to OzarksFirst by the Springfield Police Department regarding the new law reads:
“It is our job to enforce the laws enacted by our elected officials. We will respond to any calls for service complaining of that and handle them appropriately.”
Schlueter said more punishment is a step back when trying to solve the problem.
“Employers aren’t going to hire people with a warrant,” Schlueter said. “People aren’t going to be able to afford the misdemeanor fine.”
Missouri State Rep. Betsy Fogle (D) of the 135th District issued a statement to OzarksFirst about the bill, which reads:
“While the legislature wrote and the Governor signed House Bill 1606 with the best intentions, the details of the bill are concerning. Springfield area nonprofits who work with the homeless population are questioning the implications of House Bill 1606 and as of this week filed suit against the State of Missouri over its passage. By cutting the amount of funding available for permanent, affordable housing, this bill limits the ability of nonprofits and other organizations that work closely with the unhoused to continue doing what has worked for them and the people they serve. In addition, it criminalizes those experiencing homelessness when they have to spend a night on the street – which we know happens all too frequently. HB 1606 also threatens to pull local funding from municipalities that fail to uphold this new law, forcing cities and towns of all sizes and kinds to take a blanket, one-size-fits-all approach to address homelessness, instead of empowering them to determine what works and what doesn’t in their communities.”
Representative Bill Owen (R) of the 131st District did not respond when asked for comments about the bill.
The City of Springfield said they are currently “still evaluating the potential impacts of HB 1606.”
The law is set to go into effect August 28, 2022.