Texas Senate Bans Homeless Encampments

As many states around the country grapple with how to handle homeless populations, one state is on the verge of taking stronger measures to stop homeless encampments.

The Texas Senate passed a bill this week to make public camping a misdemeanor, a measure armed at stopping homeless camping groups that have popped up in public, and often urban, areas.

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“There is currently no statewide ban on camping in a public place. Interested parties note the lack of a statewide ban on camping in public places results in inconsistent policies towards camping across Texas. These parties note a statewide camping ban would set a minimum standard while allowing local governments to establish more stringent standards,” the bill’s summary read, adding that it “seeks to address this issue by creating the offense of prohibited camping and setting out provisions relating to the enforcement of public camping bans.”

The new bill comes after residents of Austin voted to ban the encampments, which have become an issue in the city. The city’s residents, which are known to be more liberal than the rest of the state, voted 57% in favor of banning the encampments.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has hinted he favors the bill’s ban.

Specifically, the new law would amend “the Penal Code to create the Class C misdemeanor offense of prohibited camping for a person who intentionally or knowingly camps in a public place without the consent of the officer or agency having the legal duty or authority to manage the public place. The bill defines “camp” as residing temporarily in a place, with shelter, and establishes that “shelter” includes a tent, tarpaulin, lean-to, sleeping bag, bedroll, blankets, or any form of shelter, other than clothing, designed to protect a person from weather conditions that threaten personal health and safety. The actor’s intent or knowledge may be established through evidence of activities associated with sustaining a living accommodation that are conducted in a public place.”

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