BRYAN, TX — Texas House Bill 1925 has now passed in both the House of Representative and the Senate. The bill would make it illegal for homeless individuals to camp in a public place; a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Though the Brazos Valley isn’t home to a sizable, visible tent encampment (as can be seen in larger metropolitan areas), Twin City Mission spokesperson Ron Crozier said that homeless families who live outdoors do exist in Aggieland.
“There are just a handful of local encampments in the local area, and we’re aware of them," Crozier said. "Local law enforcement is aware of them, Health and Human Services are aware of them, and we’re just making sure their needs are being met - to the extent they will allow us to reach out and help them.”
Twin City staff interact with community members who struggle with homelessness on a daily basis. They say the people who may be most affected by legislation like this are not those who choose to live a simplistic outdoor lifestyle, but rather those who face social and economic barriers to financial independence.
"There are a number of barriers," said Tamara Duren, Twin City Mission homeless services manager. "There could be a mental health issue, or an addiction issue. Also, there could be an issue with them getting credentials like ID's or social security cards.”
Twin City Mission already works with local law enforcement and fellow area nonprofits to assist homeless men and women in the area. Crozier and Duren expressed their hope that local police will continue the practice that’s already been in place; to help relocate and assist homeless individuals, before opting to take them into custody.
"I think our local powers that be are going to employ some common sense when it comes to dealing with these individuals and families; finding what’s best for them, not just for tonight, but for series of tomorrow nights, so they’re not continuously and chronically out on the streets wearing that homeless moniker," Crozier said.
As the bill was recently passed in the Senate, Texas HB 1925's final amendments will now be considered by the House of Representatives before being presented to Gov. Greg Abbott, who will then have ten days to sign it into law.