Federal court issues restraining order in homelessness lawsuit over tents

A federal court issued a temporary restraining order against the City of Houston Tuesday in an ongoing lawsuit that challenges ordinances that target the homeless.

The ruling prevents law enforcement from citing or arresting anyone for using a tent on public property.

"We're delighted the court recognized that homelessness is not and should not be a crime," Trisha Trigilio, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said in a press release. "Seeking shelter is not only a right; it's also a fundamental human necessity. We call on the city to stop enforcing ordinances that criminalize such a basic human need and seek more compassionate and effective methods for solving Houston's homelessness problem."

"It's not fair. Every morning they are harassing us," said Sissy Vacha, who is homeless. "We have done nothing wrong."

City officials have said strict ordinances are necessary to encourage people to seek shelters.

Attorneys for both sides must now meet to determine a date for a full hearing on the lawsuit.

Mayor Sylvester Turner released the following statement:

"The city of Houston is disappointed in the order released today. The intent of the ordinance is to take our most vulnerable Houstonians from the streets and place them in permanent supportive housing. I think we can all agree that no one deserves to live in an environment that has been deemed a public health hazard. It is our hope that the court will ultimately conclude that the city of Houston has the right to manage public space by regulating what can be erected there, especially when items impede on the space and pose risks. We will continue to work to find affordable housing options for our neighbors in need."

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