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Killeen business owners worry about homeless camps, city leaders looking for solutions

Posted at 12:48 PM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 13:48:00-05

Many store owners in downtown Killeen are not happy with homeless people setting up camp, right in front of their stores.

That's why city leaders looked into creating an ordinance during their city council meeting on Tuesday to enforce a Texas State law banning camping.

However, city leaders learned the ban is not possible right now.

According to the Assistant City Manager Danielle Singh, to enforce the ban the city must provide an alternative location where individuals can camp.

Singh said they currently do not have a different location. She also stated the city falls short of several other requirements for the ban including access to services and transportation.

The city’s only homeless shelter — Family in Crisis — has nearly 80 beds.

“Folks just don’t have a place to go and it is closer to the shelter," said Mayor Pro-Tem Ken Wilkerson. "We understand that that would be the ideal for someone who doesn’t have a home to just stay in that location until they get in at 3 p.m. at the shelter."

A recent study showed Killeen is on the path of the to quadruple its homeless population for 2030, meaning the city needs to find more space soon.

Now Killeen is pushing to create the Arbor of Hope, a plan with Temple and Bell County to provide two campuses in each city to help those without a home.

“The plan that we are working out now is to have them to have a location they can go to, not only just a move them along and move them out of the way but you are also getting them back on track and getting them back into society,” said Wilkerson.

The city is also working with the Cove House Emergency Shelter and Fort Hood Habitat for Humanity to build 30 housing units in the city for the Homeless to Housed program.

“It is a long-term program, but it is a milestone in performance base program," said Brian Hawkins, Cove House Emergency Homeless Shelter's executive director. "All the people in the program are expected to find gainful employment. Work on saving his goals. Ultimately, end up in permanent housing."

While those plans are you still in the works, the city plans to clean up downtown areas, increase patrols and work with property owners to install cameras and gated areas.