‘There’s nowhere for people to go: OurCalling opposes law that would ban homeless camps in Texas


It could soon be a crime for homeless people to camp out in public places in Texas, after members of the state legislature passed a bill in both chambers that makes such activities illegal.

OurCalling, a Dallas faith-based nonprofit organization who’s mission is to help the homeless, is “categorically” opposed to the legislation.

“There’s no viable option. There’s nowhere for people to go if they’re not camping outside,” Wayne Walker, OurCalling’s CEO and founder, told the Dallas Express. “We don’t want people to camp outside, but to make it illegal. And it pulls Dallas police officers off from fighting real crime, to write tickets to, you know, homeless folks who have nowhere else to go.”

House Bill 1925 relates to “prohibitions on camping in a public place and to a political subdivision’s designation of property for camping by homeless individuals.”

“We have the largest homeless population of any city in the South. Larger than Houston, larger than San Antonio.” Walker said. “And yet we have less homeless shelter beds than most other cities, most of those other cities.”

Walker said the homeless population in Dallas is growing at a rapid pace. It’s a problem, he said, and it is only highlighted by the number of available beds limited to just 1,600 because of the COVID-19 protocols still in place at shelters across Dallas. Walker believes the increase in homelessness can be attributed to the sudden and explosive growth of the Dallas Fort Worth metro area. Walker said since the beginning of the year, OurCalling has been able to get 970 people off the streets by placing them in different shelters or programs.

“Our teams are out all over the city every week and we’re actively working on getting people into shelters and long-term programs, and getting some folks at home, some folks into detox, or mental health hospitals, or nursing homes, or group homes,” he said.

If signed into law, the bill would ban setting up shelter and storing belongings, along with other behavior, unless given permission to do so.

People who violate the legislation can be ticketed with a fine of up to $500, but only after the officer gives the person the option to leave, tells them where camping is allowed and educates them on resources available to help the homeless.

It’s now awaiting Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R-TX) signature.

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