Seeing more tents in Austin? It’s not because homeless people are buying more tents

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Monday marks a week since changes to the sitting, lying or camping in public places ordinance in Austin went into effect loosening laws for the area’s homeless.

For someone like Dawn Howell, it’s the opportunity to pitch a tent in a public space and stay in one place.

IN-DEPTH: Starting Monday, homeless people will be able to camp on city sidewalks

Her home is a makeshift tent engineered by Howell herself. A thin blanket serves as her foundation and a bed sheet keeps her covered. It’s all supported by a bicycle on one side and a bucket with an umbrella on the other. She calls it the “Fortress of Doom.”

But, Howell remembers the days when she had a tent.

“The first one got stolen, the second one I burned down,” she said recalling the day she was cooking and accidentally set the tent on fire. “The third one, the old man took off with, and the fourth one got stolen.”

MORE: Concerns about ‘tent cities’ rise after Austin loosens homeless ordinances

Some of the homeless people KXAN spoke to said they had no idea these changes had been made. Others, like Richard, said they had read about it in the newspaper.

And people, like a man who goes by ‘Black,’ said they heard the news by word of mouth.

STATEWIDE: Gov. Abbott: If Austin allows homeless to camp in streets, lawmakers will override it

In fact, most of the people KXAN spoke to already had tents. Some have had theirs for months.

But if it seems like there are more popping up around the city, it’s because, under the new rules, police no longer ask people to break down all their tents. Only ones that block a walkway or present a health or safety hazard are asked to be broken down.

Now that these changes are in place, Howell said she’s working on getting her fifth tent.

“Oh, I’m getting another tent,” she said.

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