Homeless man ticketed by police for rummaging through Hermann Park garbage can

March 11, 2013 4:45:09 PM PDT
A homeless man was ticketed by Houston police this weekend for rummaging through a garbage can at Hermann Park, and the case is prompting outrage.

It's a story that's been getting a lot of attention on social media, especially in light of the city's controversial ordinance on feeding Houston's homeless.

"That's more or less a harassment ticket," a man named Russell said.

Russell is one of the more than 8,000 homeless people in Houston proper. He also frequents Hermann Park were the homeless man was ticketed over the weekend.

On the ticket, the officer wrote "disturbing the contents of a garbage can in the downtown central business district."

Acknowledging there is a need to keep parks clean and safe, some groups that provide resources to the homeless say there needs to be a better approach.

"That doesn't really help that person overcome the issues that drove them to need to look for food out of a garbage can in the park," Marilyn Brown said.

Brown is the CEO of Coalition for the Homeless. She says a citation for a homeless person often leads to a litany of more tickets.

"If you don't have a car, if you don't have transportation, you may not even know what day it is to court. So it does start compounding very quickly, and they can add up," she said.

In a statement released to Eyewitness News, HPD says: "An officer has probable cause to issue such a citation when a person is seen opening a lid and rummaging through contents of a dumpster or trash can."

Russell says since money is scarce on the streets, a citation usually means one thing.

"Does it do any good to get a ticket? Not really," he said. "You aren't going to be able to pay for it anyhow. I guess you'll have to sit it out in jail or something."

We learned that a court date has been set, and a local attorney has offered to represent the man pro bono.

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