Federal court issues restraining order against City of Houston in homelessness suit

HOUSTON — A federal court issued a temporary restraining order against the City of Houston Tuesday in an ongoing lawsuit challenging two city ordinances that target the homeless. Specifically, Tuesday’s 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,” said Trisha Trigilio, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “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.”

The ACLU of Texas, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and Dechert LLP applied for the restraining order following police raids of a Houston homeless encampment.

“This injunction is a good thing; we’re not hurting anybody,” said Eugene Stroman, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “We’re just out here trying to survive without being harassed by the police. You shouldn’t be able to arrest someone for being somewhere when they have no place else to go.”

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

“I am happy the injunction went in our favor,” said Shere Dore, a longtime advocate in Houston’s homeless community and a main witness in the plaintiffs’ case. “Our homeless have a voice. It’s been a long hard fight and I’m glad the system is finally respecting their rights.”

Houston 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.”

Click here to view the temporary restraining order.

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