On April 22, 2022, we sent a letter to Governor Lee urging him to veto cruel legislation that would make it harder for Tennessee’s unhoused population to survive by preventing them from sleeping anywhere on public property. We need you to join us in calling on the governor to veto this bill.
SB 1610/HB 978 would expand Tennessee’s current ban on “camping” from state-owned property to all public property, including that owned by local governments.
This bill would make it a felony for a homeless person to simply sleep on public property – which can lead to possible fines of up to $3,000 as well as prison time. Felony convictions also lead to a host of collateral consequences such as loss of voting rights, difficulty getting jobs, and, ironically, barriers to finding housing. Unhoused people need affordable housing, not criminal charges that make it even harder for them to get housing.
Already, unhoused people cannot sleep on private property or state property without violating existing law. If this proposed legislation passes and homeless people are barred from sleeping on locally owned property as well, then people who cannot find shelter cannot sleep without breaking the law.
This heartless approach to the problem of homelessness raises serious constitutional concerns under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.