Homeless couple cited for sitting on sidewalk threatens lawsuit

They entered Houston Municipal Court on Monday with everything they own, the same belongings they say they had when they were cited for sitting on a sidewalk along Fannin Street.

HOUSTON - Curtis Owens and his wife, Misty Howard, have been married for just three weeks. They’re also expecting their first child.

“I have two more months to go.” Howard said.

They entered Houston Municipal Court on Monday with everything they own, the same belongings they say they had when they were cited for sitting on a sidewalk along Fannin Street.

“I feel that we were treated unfairly and, honestly, the homeless people are targeted,” Howard said.

Civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen took their case and showed off the citations.

“For laying-slash-sitting,” Kallinen said.

He called them further proof of the city’s excessive ordinances.

“Asking for food or money, in some cases, is outlawed,” Kallinen said. “Using a tent is outlawed. Sitting on a sidewalk during certain times is outlawed. Putting belongings on a sidewalk is outlawed.”

The city is already embroiled in litigation with the ACLU over homeless camps. That includes the one Mayor Sylvester Turner toured once again just last week.

“Let me be very clear,” Turner said last week. “The ordinances that we put in place never criminalize a person for being homeless.”

Turner said public safety and public health are the reasons laws are in place. But so far, neither the city nor Houston Police has commented on what happened to Owens and Howard.

“I really think they should just throw it out,” Owens said.  “Because it’s something so small and pointless.”

Owens and his expectant wife could soon have shelter in a jail cell if fines aren’t paid. Their attorney is contemplating a federal lawsuit over what he calls cruel and unusual punishment.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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