$500 Fines for Public Camping in Texas are One Step Closer
House Bill 1925: Moving Along
Texas has been cracking down on its homeless problem over the past few years. Texas Senate recently passed House Bill 1925 which includes a statewide homeless camping ban (in public places). The Senate voted 28 to 3, passing the Bill and getting it closer and closer to Governor Abbot's desk for final approval.
The Bill was amended to prohibit those who break this law from being arrested; however, there will be punishments, which are quite controversial. A fine of up to $500 could be issued.
Kalya Gutierrez from Be Well Victoria, a non-profit organization in town, talked about the issue of ticketing the homeless, "All its going to do is tie up manpower and waste time; they're never going to be able to pay for it."
That raises the question, how does a homeless person pay such a hefty fine- heck, that would put a dent in my checkbook, and I have a roof over my head. How is one who essentially has little to no money pay such a huge fine? It's just not realistic; it's setting them up for failure. Imagine getting a penalty for being poor, not being able to pay the fine, then getting another penalty for not paying, then eventually having a warrant issued, and BOOM: now you're a criminal. It's a snowball effect, but that is the reality of this situation.
Mental Health Crisis
The issuing of fines will be used only after officers ask the homeless to leave the area. However, many suffer from mental health issues and may not respond or react in a typical way. Jodi Yancey Sandoval, who is also from Be Well Victoria, mentioned some innovative ideas, "There has to be more mental health officers trained to handle a mental health crisis, cops are trained to enforce the law, but we need people who are trained to deal with someone who is having a mental health crisis."
How is one who essentially has little to no money pay such a huge fine? It's just not realistic; it's setting them up for failure. Imagine getting a fine for being poor, not being able to pay the fine, then getting another fine for not paying, then eventually having a warrant issued, and BOOM: now you're a criminal. It's a snowball effect, but that is the reality of this situation.
Homelessness and Empathy
The issue of homelessness is very near and dear to me, and I have been quite active in my own community. Growing up in Los Angeles, I witnessed some pretty devastating living situations, and at a very young age, I learned how to be empathetic.
That is NOT the Answer
The issue of homelessness in America is a huge one, but it is an extremely tricky and delicate issue with a not-so-clear solution. Jodi admitted the complexity of the situation, but there's one thing she knows, "Making more problems for people who are already experiencing crisis does not help the problem."