WACO, Texas — Homeless camping in public areas could see a fine of up to $500 after House Bill 1925 passed in Texas.
"This is home, this is my home," said Melissa.
The home is a tarp with a couch, bed, and TV. It's on the side of the road in Waco.
"I rather live here than inside an apartment," said Melissa.
Melissa said that she has cancer and just lost her mother. She, like several Americans, received a stimulus check. She used hers to buy a car. It's a vehicle that she is proud of.
She didn't know about a new law charging homeless individuals up to $500 for camping in public areas.
On Sept. 1, the statewide public camping ban passed by the Texas legislature went into effect.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 10, 2021
Local entities must enforce the ban on public camping to ensure the safety of all Texans.
Read the full letter from @TXAG and I:https://t.co/OgcOIVrfhO
Gov. Greg Abbott has been pushing the law after several camps went up around Austin. Last month, the Governor sent a letter to law enforcement agencies.
"Local entities like yours should uphold the rule of law by enforcing this public camping ban," read the letter. "In the coming months, we will be monitoring local entities across Texas to ensure compliance with House Bill 1925."
The question for many is how will the homeless pay for the fine.
"I'm broke now," said Melissa.
During the week, she goes to a spot called The Hangar. It's a non-profit organization run by Laurie and Dusty Kirk.
"I want people to know that they are loved and that there is someone that cares about them," said Laurie Kirk.
When you first walk into The Hanger, it feels like home. You can smell food cooking and people are watching TV. The idea is to create a home-like atmosphere. While the two don't agree with the new law, they do believe something needs to be done.
Dusty took us on a trip around the different camps. Along a creek and under bridges, you'll see signs of people camping.
"There are barriers that we have to break through to help them want to live in an apartment," said Dusty Kirks.
The Kirks work with around 50 homeless people. They believe God does the fixing and they are there to be family. Sometimes being family means some tough love. Because they know the people, they know when to say yes and when to say no.
"I believe that's what you do to people you love, it's what we do to our kids," said Laurie Kirks.
They believe many people will come out and give stuff to the homeless. Many of the camps are full of clothing, items, and trash. Others are well kept and they sweep it daily.
You'll find places where campfires have been started under bridges. The Kirks work to keep the bridge by The Hangar clean.
When you walk around speaking to the chronic homeless, you find out many are okay with how they are living.
Tiffany, who is originally from Clifton, has been on the street for years now and plans to keep it that way. Many times in tears, she spoke about her family and friends on the streets.
Where are these people suppose to sleep where can they be so they are not going to be in trouble.
There are shelters around the area that are open. Inside the Jubilee Market, started by Mission Waco, is Marla. She had been homeless after losing her son to cancer and after having car issues in Waco.
"It was harder for us to realize we were homeless and in a spot where we couldn’t help herself," said Marla.
Now she has a home and is working at the grocery store in North Waco.
"We have to remember the reality that we could also be on the streets," said Jimmy Dorrell who founded Mission Waco.
Looking for affordable housing and helping the working poor has become the focus for Jimmy.
"If you really want to help, don't just give the guy on the corner money. Build a relationship have a hamburger at the burger shop," said Dorrell.
The Hanger, Mission Waco, and others are looking for ways to help the homeless and those looking for affordable housing.
Marla behind the cash register wants those who don't have a home not to give up.
"What I want to tell the homeless is that it's not hopeless," said Marla.