New Camping Law Takes Effect

In effect since January 1, 2023, Missouri has made it a Class C misdemeanor to camp on state-owned land. Any city that does not enforce the ban, or other existing local ordinances on public camping, risks a lawsuit by the state attorney general.

Those who support the law believe these provisions would minimize the number of homelessness encampments, and thus make communities safer. Those who do not support the legislation feel that it will only compound the homelessness crisis. Both sides have concerns that this new law could lead to increased harassment of people experiencing homelessness by law enforcement officials.

The new law also uses some federal and state funds to discourage temporary housing, substance abuse, and mental health treatment, efforts supporters feel have more effectiveness than funneling those funds toward increasing permanent supportive housing. A number of cities and law enforcement officials have expressed uncertainty about how to enforce the new law, especially since not everyone knows what land the state owns. If you are an unhoused person, how do you know if it’s a state-owned freeway? According to a report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Missouri joins a handful of states that have adopted a ban on camping on state-owned land.

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