Sen. Rehder says SB 1336 supports charities

Jefferson City, MO, Jan. 23, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- More than 1,500 likely Missouri voters have shared their opinions in a newly released poll from the Cicero Institute on the state’s growing homelessness crisis. The survey, conducted January 8–10, 2024, signals an urgent need for state leaders to take bold and innovative steps toward ending street camping and ensuring public safety.

In a resounding demonstration of empathy, 84% of Missourians say it is more compassionate to move individuals to available shelters than to leave them on the streets. 

Although opinions are mixed on whether subsidized housing funds should be redirected toward emergency shelters, support for this approach jumps to a startling 59% once voters find out there are more than 2,000 Missourians sleeping on the streets each night.

A law prohibiting street camping in the state was recently overturned on a technicality having to do with the title. But lawmakers are seeking to correct the issue and reintroduce the law this legislative session. When asked whether they support this effort, 60% responded in the affirmative. 

Senator Holly Thompson Rehder has filed a bill, SB 1336, that will prohibit street camping and put a focus on programs that provide emergency shelter and rehabilitation services. “We have wonderful charities on the ground that are well-equipped and ready to serve our homeless community. They need our support, and this bill offers that,” Sen. Rehder commented.

“These poll results should be a wake-up call for those who want to uphold the status quo,” said Stefani Buhajla, Cicero’s director of communications and author of the poll. “People feel unsafe in their communities and are avoiding places with encampments. This hurts small businesses and presents challenges for law enforcement.”

A staggering 77% say they avoid going to areas where there are homeless individuals living on the streets. And a significant majority (63%) express concerns about the threats homeless encampments pose to public safety. 

These sentiments underscore the urgent need for comprehensive and compassionate interventions that improve outcomes for the homeless and ensure the safety of the public.

The data also reveals an openness to change, with support for measures such as legally compelling individuals with severe mental illness to seek healthcare treatment (57%) and favoring mental health and substance abuse recovery programs (60%) over subsidized housing (19%).

Missouri stands at a crossroads, and its leaders have a unique opportunity to shape the future of homelessness policies. The narrative painted by the poll results invites state leaders to embrace a proactive stance, fostering compassion, innovation, and resilience in the face of this pressing issue.


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