HOUSTON -- Houston City Council on Wednesday passed an ordinance banning public encampments along with other rules meant to fight panhandling.
The measure prohibits temporary shelters, tents and unauthorized cooking devices in public areas.
KHOU 11's Adam Bennett reports council also passed an ordinance banning the blocking of a roadway, sidewalk or building entrance. The measures stem from panhandling complaints by citizens and business owners.
The new rules go into effect after 30 days, mid-May. Violators could be cited for a misdemeanor violation.
Officials have said the measure was prompted by complaints from the public.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says the rules are meant to strike a delicate balance between regulation and helping the homeless. Councilman Mike Knox says panhandling in streets is dangerous to both panhandlers and motorists.
While the ordinance was passed, Council Member Laster voted no to the ban on homeless camps.
In early March, Mayor Turner unveiled his plan to tackle the homelessness and panhandling issues in Houston. Turner said the expansion of The Way Home is at the center of his new plan.
The Way Home is a coordinated housing effort between 100 public and private groups that’s reduced homelessness by 57 percent in five years.
Mayor Turner said another 500 chronically homeless people will be placed in permanent supportive housing within six months.
He also called on apartment owners and landlords with vacant units to help out. An extra 215 shelter beds should come online in August with the completion of the new Star of Hope campus in South Houston.
The mayor's plan also addresses panhandling, which has recently drawn complaints from residents citywide, including Southwest Houston.
© 2017 KHOU-TV