When one thinks of camping, they likely imagine families on vacation, setting up tents in campgrounds to sleep under the stars. While camping like this is welcomed as a family-friendly activity, there is another form of camping that Governor Greg Abbott and state legislators are looking to eradicate: public camping. Recently, discussions began surrounding whether or not public camping should be considered a crime in Texas.
Cities have always been a haven for homelessness, as the numerous buildings can provide temporary shelter. Some homeless individuals seek refuge near buildings, while others set up camp in public areas. The topic of homelessness has been under discussion as of late as Austin political leaders have been developing a new strategy to address the area’s struggles with the homeless population. According to the Texas Homeless Network’s annual report, approximately 27,000 Texans experienced homelessness on a single night in 2020. This population is skewed to the Black community, with 37 percent of the homeless population consisting of Black individuals, even though they make up only 13 percent of Texas’ population.
The legislators behind Senate Bill 987 highlight the economic and public health consequences that these public camping communities bring into Texas cities. For instance, the fires often lit in these public campsites can present deadly hazards to those in the encampments and the cities themselves. If passed, SB 987 would allow local governments to enact stricter camping ordinances and establish a statewide ban on public camping, making the act a property crime and Class C misdemeanor for violators. Though this misdemeanor classification is relatively low, those found guilty of camping on public property would still face criminal charges and fines....