KILLEEN, TX — Gov. Greg Abbott is cracking down on homeless camping in Texas streets.
In a tweet, he wrote, “If Austin, or any other Texas city, permits camping on city streets it will be yet another local ordinance the State of Texas will override. At some point cities must start putting public safety and common sense first. There are far better solutions for the homeless & citizens.”
The statement comes after the homeless in Killeen formed a tent city outside of the now-closed shelter. Friends in Crisis Homeless Shelter closed its doors back in May after a shortfall in funding.
“We don’t want them camping out on our lawn, but we’re going to allow that if that’s what they feel their needs are. We would rather be able to serve them fully and we will help them, and have helped them as far as they could go some place else or get some kind of other accommodations that would help them,” said Larry Moehnke, the vice-president of the board of Families in Crisis.
Abbott’s tweet refers to public property, however, the tent city in Killeen is based on a private lot. However, Abbot’s vow to override local ordinances struck a chord with leaders in Killeen.
“My understanding is that if the city can’t take care of the homelessness than the state would come in. And as mayor, I would welcome that, because I think it’s a bigger problem than a lot of local municipalities can handle,” said Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra.
However, deteriorating conditions have prompted questions surrounding public health. There is no running water or a bathroom.
“I just read something last week that even the police are getting sick in Los Angeles and I don't want that here, so we definitely need to do something. It's hard because you want to enforce the ordinances we don't allow that, but, at the same time, what do you do with them? Where are you going to put them?” said Segarra.
The city says that Friends in Crisis must still comply with codes.
“We’re a partner with the city. And we want to accommodate by any rules and regulations that are out there we certainly want them to partner with us and give us some support, too, but we are certainly going to follow whatever the rules and regulations are,” said Moehnke.