Texas Poised to Criminalize Homeless Encampments
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott is set to sign a bill that is being finalized in the GOP-led State Legislature which would criminalize homeless people who set up encampments anywhere in the Lone Star State.
House Bill 1925 “would make camping in an unapproved public place a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. Cities may not opt out of the ban or discourage enforcement of it,” The Texas Tribune reported on Friday.
“Abbott has signaled that he would sign the bill. He’s been a vocal critic of Austin officials for lifting the city’s homeless encampment ban two years ago. Lawmakers cited that decision as motivation for introducing this bill,” the paper wrote. “Earlier this month, 57% of Austin residents voted to reinstate the city’s ban after critics said it sparked the spread of encampments in the city.”
HB 1925 also prohibits cities such as Austin, the capital, from allowing homeless people to use public parks as temporary, make-shift shelters without the explicit permission and approval of the state government.
“The bill calls for law enforcement officers to redirect homeless people to available local resources — such as shelters or nonprofit groups — ‘before or at the time’ they issue a citation,” according to the Tribune. “An amendment from the Senate strikes the word ‘arrest’ from the bill’s language, which [State Representative Giovanni] Capriglione [R] said Friday is to ‘clarify that law enforcement officers would have provided the person the information … only before at the time of issuing a citation and not arrest.'”
Critics have argued that the legislation creates an “enormous barrier” for individuals who are struggling to find housing and that more resources should be made available to keep people in their homes in the first place.
“If passing this legislation means that we’re sick of seeing people in the streets, good, let’s do something about it,” the Texas Homeless Network’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Samuels said in a statement. “We’re ready, our partners around the state are ready and, most importantly, people experiencing homelessness are ready.”
Texas lawmakers are poised to make camping in an unapproved public place a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. Cities may not opt out of the ban or discourage enforcement of it.#TXlege https://t.co/zvGDXLr9An
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) May 28, 2021