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Proposed Texas Senate Bill Criminalizes RV Parking Overnight

Proposed Texas Senate Bill Criminalizes RV Parking Overnight

A public camping ban in the entire state of Texas? 

It might just be a thing by the end of this summer. 

Texas Senate Bill 987 proposes a complete statewide prohibition to camping in public spaces. 

So what does that mean for RVers and campers? Who is affected?

Let’s find out. 

Texas Senate Bill 987

Texas Senate Bill 987 was proposed by Senator Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway Texas. This bill is essentially a proposal to ban camping in public places. 

The bill proposes a prohibition on camping by stating that camping is: 

“Camp” means to reside temporarily in a place, with shelter. “Shelter” includes a tent, tarpaulin, lean-to, sleeping bag, bedroll, blankets, or any form of shelter other than clothing.”

Here’s the catch: RVs, travel trailers, tear drops, and truck campers all fall into the “other forms of shelter” section.

The bill goes on to say: 

“The actor’s intent or knowledge may be established through evidence of activities associated with sustaining a living accommodation that are conducted in a public place, including: cooking, making a fire, storing personal belongings for an extended period, digging, or sleeping.” 

But, Isn’t Walmart private Property? Although the property is privately owned, it is an area where many people do congregate in a public fashion and where police do enforce traffic and safety laws.

Texas Bill 987 states that any offense under this bill should be charged as a Class C Misdemeanor. 

The bill goes on to state that it is up to local jurisdictions statewide to enforce this ban, and that local jurisdictions are not allowed to discourage enforcement. 

If cities refuse to enforce the ban, they will suffer consequences from the state, including losing state funding.

This act is proposed to take effect on September 1, 2021. 

As we see it: Overnight RV Parking in the state of Texas will become a criminal behavior if this law is passed.

You can read the bill in it’s entirety here. 

Why Is Texas Proposing This Law? 

It is obvious that this bill is a slam on the states growing homeless population, by proposing to make it illegal for humans to reside in any kind of shelter. 

This approach to dealing with homelessess aims to make it a crime to be homeless and charge homeless individuals with misdemeanors for simply seeking safe shelter. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down. 

This bill comes at a time when the city of Austin has been working to develop a new strategy to address the homeless population in the area. 

Diana Grey, the city’s homeless strategy officer, said: 

“I understand the impulse but thinking that criminalizing unsheltered homelessness will make it go away is simply wishful thinking. Where are they going to go?”

Steve Adler, Austin Mayor, had this to say about the bill becoming law:

“Austin is going to do everything it can to stop that misguided action from happening.”

Austin’s Mayor Adler also said:

“It’s just wrong… the state ban, because (it doesn’t) do anything. If someone doesn’t have a home, our goal should not be to give them a fine or put them in jail, or to scare them into the woods or streams by threatening that… We just have to do better.”

He goes on to state that the focus should be getting services and housing for the homeless rather than criminalizing them.

Who Will This Public Camping Ban Affect? 

This bill will most notably affect the homeless population residing in cities and towns all around the state of Texas. But, it may also affect campers and travelers looking for somewhere to sleep for the night. 

Since this proposed ban is statewide and includes all public spaces, this may mean it is illegal for any camper to set up camp in any place in Texas that is not a designated campground. 

RVers who want to camp overnight at Cracker Barrel, Bass Pro, Walmart, a rest stop, or truck stop will potentially be arrested for Class C Misdemeanors.

“Camping”, or just trying to survive?

Not Truly a “Camping” Ban

As this proposed bill is clearly aimed towards criminalizing homelessness, it also seems to insinuate that homeless populations are living in tents and other makeshift shelters as a leisure activity. 

From cities making it illegal to sleep in cars, and now the possibility of an entire state making it illegal to sleep in a tent outside of a “campground”, it would seem that the lawmakers in our country have a very heartless and misguided view of what it is truly like to be homeless. 

Although it’s not clear at this point, this ban is unlikely to affect recreational travelers, RVers, and tent campers when they’re at an established campground.

But, overnight RV parking may be out of the question.

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  1. Michael Matteson says:

    Does this proposed Texas law mean if I am parked in an RV overnight in a Walmart lot that I could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor?

  2. Nancy Mannikko says:

    Wow. Right now it’s legal to stay overnight at any Texas state rest stop or picnic area that doesn’t specifically forbid overnight parking at that location. One of the great things about Texas has long been the fact you can easily find free overnight camping if you need it.

  3. Dawn C says:

    As if being homeless isn’t enough of a punishment. Way to just pile on the crap and injustice Texas (excluding those decent people opposing this ludicrous law). Also, in a purely selfish thought, I’m wondering how this law would effect Texas beaches which aren’t designated as official campgrounds but specifically allow camping up to 2 weeks at a time.

  4. Bob says:

    So will do nothing to fix the homeless problem as they have nowhere to go and no money to pay the fine. Will only hurt Texas tourism as many, like me, will just cross Texas off our list. I’m not going to risk a fine for spending a night at Walmart. If only campers could unite with no one going to Texas you would have all businesses demanding the removal of such a law.

  5. janellelear says:

    So the State of Texas would rather a tired driver stay on the road possibly having an accident and potentially injuring untold other drivers? Get real. A few hours of rest isn’t hurting anyone. I have traveled in my vehicle, pulling a trailer or a camper and appreciate being able to stop and rest in a parking lot when there isn’t any place else to park.This is a stupid bill and a waste of taxpayer money.

  6. Michael Matteson says:

    I totally agree with the above about this new law facilitating driving when fatigued, etc., accidents being thus caused, and fatalities because of it. Stupid and a classical exercise in illogical reasoning. How low can we go?

  7. Randy Chapman says:

    I think it’s time to boycot all the texas campgrounds.they will probably rakar there fees since they will be the only places to sleep legally