Kansas lawmakers listen to supporters, opponents on homelessness bill

Kansas lawmakers discussed a bill that would criminalize camping or sleeping on publicly owned land.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 7:07 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas lawmakers discussed a bill that would criminalize camping or sleeping on publicly owned land.

The House Welfare Reform Committee held a hearing Thursday on House Bill 2430. The bill would make it illegal to camp on public grounds, keep local governments from creating or enforcing ordinances opposing this bill, and withhold state funding from cities with higher-than-average rates of homelessness.

Supporters of the bill say it’s needed to help cities address the issue. and push homeless people to seek help. The Committee heard from several opponents that cited concerns over the morality of the bill and that it would interfere with local efforts already taking place.

“We’d suggest investing in a city like ours that is actively trying to find new solutions,” Topeka City Attorney Amanda Stanley said.

“It’s an important tool that local and state officers need to encourage people to move off the streets and into safer situations,” Judge Glock, from the Manhattan Institute think tank, said. “The goal here is not to ‘criminalize’ the homeless or anyone.”

“It’s not because of substance abuse, not because of any of that, but because of poverty,” Kansas Homeless Coalition’s Eric Arganbright countered. “That’s how it works in the state of Kansas. it has nothing to do with any of the others. The problem I have with this is bill is it would have criminalized my mother, and people like my mother because that’s what rural; homelessness looks like in the state of Kansas.”

“A person forced to face jail time and pay fines will become harder to house, not easier,” Cole Schnieders, with Wichita’s Continuum of Care said. “If this misdemeanor goes on a homeless person’s record it makes it harder for them to clear background checks on lease agreements. This would negatively affect our ability to house folks.”

Representatives Heather Meyer and Timothy Johnson both voiced their opposition to the bill to end the hearing and questioned the information provided in favor of the legislation. You can watch the full hearing below.