Sen. Dawn Buckingham, Abilene representative authors bill to ban public camping


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- Sen. Dawn Buckingham who represents Abilene and parts of the big country in District 24, introduced Senate Bill 987 which establishes a statewide ban on camping in public places. 

Critics say this is a tactic to criminalize homelessness, but Buckingham says that this bill would be a tool for local government to aid in homeless crises. 

“The city of Abilene, has had amazing successes in helping the homeless,” said Buckingham. 

Buckingham recently co-authored a bill, which would place a Texas wide ban on public camping.  

“Some other cities like Austin have not had the same successes,” said Buckingham.  

Buckingham says the city of Austin is experiencing a lot of people living in tents who abuse drugs and alcohol or are involved in human trafficking.  

“We heard heartbreaking testimony where trafficked women were heard screaming in the tents all night long,” said Buckingham.  

She says her bill aims to give cities a tool to get people living on the street the help they need. 

“And stop enabling their addiction,” said Buckingham. 

Now there is a small tent city in Abilene. 

“It’s home, when all else fails and there ain’t nowhere else to go,” said Bubba.  

And a man who goes by Bubba, who runs the tent city, says they shouldn’t be removed from their tent area. 

“It’s an attack on the streets, it’s an attack on the people who choose not to live in a home,” said Bubba. 

Buckingham says the bill gives cities the ability to decide how restrictive they want to be. 

“If the city wants to create some type of camping facility or something, they can sure do that… It doesn’t say they have to issue tickets; it doesn’t say they have to take people to jail,” said Buckingham. 

Buckingham says the bill is permissive. 

“It doesn’t criminalize anything,” said Buckingham.  

Rather gives local law enforcement and government complete independent thought on what they want to do to address the homeless issue in their area. 

“Abilene has done an amazing job with the homeless issue, it was a conscious effort on Abilene’s part, and I applaud them, and I wish every city was run as well as Abilene is,” said Buckingham.  

The bill has not been voted in yet, but if it is voted in, it would be effective September 1st, 2021. 

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