The City of Houston stood in opposition to House Bill 1925 as political subdivisions will likely be targeted by the provisions of this legislation. The Governor and the Legislature were angered at the City of Austin’s policy on public camping.
- In the course of this Legislative Session, the voters of Austin overwhelming repealed this local ordinance and are in the planning stages of implementing new housing policies.
House Bill 1925 did not recognize this reality.
Instead of targeting Austin, it creates a statewide policy sweeping up programs across the State of Texas.
The City of Houston recognizes that encampments are an issue that need to be addressed. In our experience, this bill doesn’t solve or effectively manage this issue. As the City mentioned in testimony before the House & Senate, the solution needs to have both a carrot and a stick.
This bill should include funding and resources to help house and transition these individuals out of encampments, otherwise it will just push these individuals elsewhere, waste critical law enforcement resources, and not solve the problem.
Although homelessness in the greater Houston area has decreased significantly since 2011, there has been a densification of homelessness, especially in highly visible, public places leading to the development of encampments.
The City of Houston is at the forefront in developing strategies to not just manage but solve the problem of encampments effectively and holistically. This issue is not about the visibility of encampments, but rather the public health and safety issues created by encampments, especially for those living within the camps.
House Bill 1925 is overly broad, going far beyond addressing the public health and safety issues created by encampments.
- Instead of partnering with those on the ground, doing the immensely difficult work, this bill allows the Attorney General of Texas to recover expenses including court costs, attorney’s fees, investigative costs, witness fees and deposition costs from the municipality under Section 364.003.
We believe those provisions to be ill-conceived and a heavy-handed approach and will set Houston back significantly in its nationally and internationally recognized efforts to house members of the homeless population.
Rep. Gene Wu questioned House bill author Rep. Capriglione on his legislative intent, trying to clarify that Houston’s existing public camping ban, along with the internationally recognized efforts for housing and wrap-around services, should not fall subject to the whims of the Texas Attorney General.
Given the extremely minimal actions this Legislature has taken to help the uninsured, specifically in rejecting Medicaid Expansion, House Bill 1925 will do nothing to help with homelessness in Houston.
We have come to expect Texas being the worst in the nation in the rate of residents without insurance but setting up the Attorney General to sue cities over local policies that address homelessness is an even worse level of harm.