AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas House passed legislation that would create a statewide public camping ban Thursday in an 88-56 vote.
House Bill 1925 would create a Class-C misdemeanor for individuals who knowingly camp in a public place and punish local governments that do not enforce the ban. The bill would still need a final vote of approval in the House, while an identical bill in the Texas Senate remains in committee.
The statewide camping ban would impact the City of Austin’s response to Proposition B — a ballot measure passed by voters last week that will reinstate a public camping ban in the city on May 11.
There is an identical bill in the Senate, but it is still in committee.
Austin City Council is considering whether to direct the city manager to identify potential locations for city-sanctioned camping sites, but the statewide camping ban legislation would require local governments to seek state approval before designating any area for camping.
Leah Hargrave of Mosaic Street Ministry visited people living underneath the US-183 overpass at Oak Knoll in north Austin on Wednesday — where many are unsure what will happen when a new public camping ban takes effect on Tuesday.
“They’re not sure what’s going to happen on May 11. They just know something is going to happen on May 11,” Hargrave said.
Hargrave and other homeless service providers received an email from the City of Austin that it is “evaluating options” before the ban takes effect.
Beth Easterling, who lives at the campsite Hargrave visited, wishes those options would have been evaluated long before the vote.
“Who’s to say that we won’t be woken up in the morning saying, ‘you gotta go?'” Easterling said. “Then, we’ve all got to pack up our stuff and go.”