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Lawsuit filed in Missouri challenges state's new law covering homelessness

New MO Laws
Posted at 11:30 AM, Sep 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-10 07:41:56-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A group of Missourians are suing the state of Missouri, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the Missouri Housing Development Commission and the Department of Economic Development over the state's new homelessness law.

Of the group of plaintiffs, two live in southwest Missouri and the third lives in southeast Missouri. They are working with the Legal Service of Eastern Missouri and the Public Citizen Litigation Group in bringing the legal action.

The plaintiffs claim that House Bill 1606, which changes laws regarding political subdivisions, violates the state constitution.

Article 3 of the Missouri Constitution does not allow bills to focus on multiple subjects and should clearly state the subject in its title. The lawsuit says that while the bill's focus was on political subdivisions, a section was added that also addresses homelessness.

Section 67.2300 of the bill, which is set to go into effect Jan. 1, says that state spending on homelessness must apply to certain facilities and meet certain criteria.

"State funds otherwise used for permanent housing projects will be used to assist individuals with substance use, mental health treatment, and other services like short-term housing," the section says.

Additionally, any political subdivision that has a higher rate of homelessness than the state average will not be able to receive additional funding until its rate is lower than the average, or until ordinances addressing homelessness are enforced.

The section says that the first offense of misuse of state land for sleeping or camping will be a warning, while additional offenses will be class C misdemeanors. It also says political subdivisions within Missouri cannot prohibit enforcement of the restrictions. It also states that owners of private camping facilities are immune from liability.

Due to the addition of this section, the plaintiffs claim that the bill violates the constitution for containing multiple subjects, not clearly expressing the subject of the bill in the title and for changing the original purpose of the bill.

Schmitt's office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

KSHB 41 News has reached out to Parson's office, the Missouri Housing Development Commission and the Department of Economic Development for comment. This story will be updated if a response is received.