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Texas Lawmakers Consider Bill To Criminalize Public Camping, As Looming Evictions Put More Texans At Risk Of Homelessness

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A homeless encampment under I-35 near the Austin Police Department headquarters on March 23, 2020.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
A homeless encampment under I-35 near the Austin Police Department headquarters on March 23, 2020.

House Bill 1925 — which would make public camping a Class C misdemeanor, a crime punishable by a fine of up to $500 — passed through the Texas House last week and now heads to the Senate.

The bill would ban homeless people from sleeping in public outdoor spaces, as millions of Americans are vulnerable to evictions and housing insecurity due to pandemic-related economic hardship.

If the legislation is approved, cities could lose state funding for failing to enforce the ban. The vote also coincides with Austin voters' decision to reinstate criminal penalties for camping in public spaces.

How would a statewide camping ban affect Texas cities? What does this legislation hope to achieve by criminalizing people and families who are experiencing homelessness? How would it be enforced?

What does the opposition say about the bill? What happens next in the legislative process?

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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, May 11.