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Local reaction to new law banning homeless encampments statewide

Posted at 6:41 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 19:41:16-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Driving or walking around Corpus Christi, you might have seen several homeless encampments, but soon that might change.

Texas House Bill 1925 has become a law and bans homeless encampments throughout the state; something Marilena Garza said is detrimental to the homeless community.

Garza owns the Free Store, a store that gives free items such as clothes and backpacks to the homeless.

“They’re like people like me and you. Nobody ever had dreams of being homeless,” Garza said.

Garza said she has gotten to know the homeless through her business and has heard many of their stories.

“The encampments is where they store their items while they roam around all day trying to stay safe, trying to find food, trying to find resources and they’re taking that away,” she said.

She said the homeless already don’t have many resources or money and the new law takes away what little they have.

“It’s like us having a bad day, they are having a bad day and when you realize oh my goodness you’ve lost everything, I think anybody can sympathize with someone,” Garza said.

Peter Zanoni, the city of Corpus Christi’s city manager, said the city has had ordinances banning homeless encampments for at least the past two decades.

He said one of the ordinances that the City Council recently passed bans people from sleeping on sidewalks or public right of ways.

“Even with a lot of resources, even with what we do, we still really haven’t solved the issue of homelessness. It’s probably every city’s challenge to work on everyday unfortunately,” Zanoni said.

The city’s homeless outreach coordinator is working with the Corpus Christi Police Department to get rid of homeless encampments. Zanoni said the outreach coordinator goes out into the field and talks to homeless about what kinds of options they have, such as shelters.

Luietenant Kody Harrison with the Corpus Christi Police Department said they have just gotten rid of single homeless encampments off SPID and Nile and SPID and Ennis Joslin. He said the homeless can be arrested and face a Class C misdemeanor, which he said is equal to the penalties of a traffic ticket.

“We actively look for them and we look for them when they’re smaller and the single individuals and try and get them before they get large,” Harrison said.