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Texas bill that would criminalize camping in public places moves to 87th Legislature

Advocates say it would hurt the homeless community
Posted at 4:45 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 19:16:35-04

WACO, TX — Three Texas Senators are sponsoring SB 987 to prohibit camping in public places, making it a criminal offense.

The bill currently sits in committee with 25% progression in the 87th Legislative Session.

Although the bill is in its early stages, David Quinoes, a homeless man in Waco, worries where he would be sleeping if it's passed.

"We'd have more people in jail, and they'd just throw us in jail left and right," Quinoes said.

The Waco man asks himself everyday where he will sleep that night. Quinoes says he never sleeps in the same place too many times in a row because it could make someone mad.

"I'm not like criminal trespassing or anything like that. I look for a place where I can lay my head and then get up and go in the morning," Quinoes said.

The Salvation Army and many other organizations in Waco are trying to help those like Quinoes. Major Jim Taylor says the Salvation Army is housing on average 20 people at any given time.

"The Salvation Army's goal in working with the homeless is to reestablish them into an independent way of living," Major Taylor said.

He says what many don't know is the Salvation Army can help even when you think they can't. It just takes work from the individual experiencing homelessness.

Usually residents only stay for up to a week, but with their Case Management Program, clients can stay long-term.

"Because it may take long-term in order to get them where they need to be in order to live independently," Major Taylor said.

In Waco, between 2010 and 2020, the homeless population fluctuated but has ultimately gone down. According to federal data, in 2010, there were 312 homeless people in the Waco area.

In 2016, 267 people were homeless. That number dropped again in 2019 to 193. Last year, those registered as homeless increased to 234, and that could be because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Comparing that to the state, 27,299 Texans were homeless in 2020, but in 2010 that number was 35,121.

Quinoes tries to work to stay busy during the day. He works to stay out of jail and says he tries his best to live day by day.

"I try and work every day. I just try and give back to the public and try and work. I just try to be the best person I can every day," he said.