Federal Court Blocks Houston Homeless Ordinance: It May Be Cruel And Unusual Punishment

The city is trying to break up encampments in neighborhoods where homelessness is highest by fining or even arresting individuals who live there.

By Jill AmentAugust 23, 2017 10:57 am,

Houston’s controversial ordinance banning public encampments has been in effect for three months. It came as the result of mounting complaints from residents regarding the amount of homeless camps on public property.

But the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city on behalf of some of the people experiencing homelessness, who were displaced by the ordinance, arguing the law is unconstitutional. On Tuesday, a federal court temporarily blocked the city from enforcing the ban.

Rebecca Elliott, city hall reporter for the Houston Chronicle, says the city has been trying to find ways to deal with homelessness for years, but that this recent ordinance may violate the Eight Amendment rights of people experiencing homelessness to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

People living in encampments can receive citations and even be arrested.

Elliott says the overall rate of homelessness in Houston is at its lowest level in years, but certain neighborhoods have become magnets for a growing population of homeless individuals.


Written by Caroline Covington.