Oklahoma Senate To Hear Bill That Would Make Homeless Camps On State Property A Crime

Lawmakers are discussing a bill that would make homeless camps on state property a crime.

Friday, February 16th 2024, 10:23 pm



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Lawmakers are discussing a bill that would make homeless camps on state property a crime.

Supports say the legislation is about safety while opponents say it would do more harm than good.

If someone is convicted, a person could pay a $50 fine and spend time in jail.

“In reality, the objective on this bill is not to be punitive.” Senate Bill 1854 author and Moore Republican Senator, Darrell Weaver said.

He says the goal is to address safety concerns surrounding people who are homeless and set up camps on state property.

“I know of a couple places here in Oklahoma City where, right under some major overpasses, some of this is going on and I think that's unsafe not just for them, but everyone involved,” he said.

Oklahoma City reports more than 1,400 people are homeless in the city and Tulsa is close behind with just under 1,200 people.

Josh Sanders with the Tulsa Day Center says the metro area saw nearly a 10-percent growth in the homeless population since last year.

We have a lack of availability shelter space and we have about 450 people who sleep outside every night,” Sanders said.

If passed, the law would give violators a warning for a first offense, but if they refuse to go to a shelter, they could pay a $50 fine, spend 15 days in jail, or both.

But Sanders says a new law doesn't mean there is going to be room in shelters.

“For the people who can't access shelter to provide a spot for them to be. When we create state laws that prevent that from being a possibility, we are really furthering the problem,” Sanders said.

“There's nothing punitive happening if they just obey,” Weaver said. “I don't know anybody who wouldn't just heed the warning and just move on.”

The bill will now have a chance to be heard in the Senate.

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