Texas city may fine homeless for breaking camping ordinance

    City of Amarillo may fine homeless for breaking camping ordinance (Photo by Kendra Hall ABC 7 ). 

    AMARILLO, Texas (KVII) - A large group of the homeless population has been camping on private property on Amarillo's north side.

    Thursday marked the deadline for them to be off that property because of a city ordinance.

    This camp is known as Christ's Church of New Beginnings or Tent City. It is a large group that has formed a community near NW 1st Ave. and Adams.

    The landowner has allowed them to stay on his lot, but the city has different plans for the group.

    The city gave these folks eviction notice 10 days ago. The city plans to file a case with the district court Friday if they are still on the property.

    "Homelessness is not a crime," said Chris Seright, Homeless Advocate. "It is not a crime to exist anywhere in the United States, but we're making homelessness illegal in Amarillo."

    It will be up to district court to determine if the activity at the camp meets city code or not. The fines will be up to court to decide and the city says they could be up to $2,000 per person.

    "It's crazy," said Brian Moore, a homeless man living at Tent City. "I mean we're homeless people. We don't have $2,000 in the first place and we can't sleep underneath the bridges so I don't really know what they want from us."

    Thursday folks at the camp were moving their belongings to a different plot of land nearby that they say they have permission to be on. But they are trying to figure out where to go long-term.

    "If you just bought a house here in town for $150,000 and you just had it paid off and the city comes in and says 'hey you have to move and we're going to take possession of your home,' imagine how that feels," said Terry Harper, a homeless man living at Tent City. "And that's about the way it is out here. We may not live in fancy homes, but these are our homes."

    Not all of them are able to go to shelters. Not every homeless person meets the criteria to get into a shelter.

    "I think a lot of it has to do with downtown revitalization," said Seright. "We don't want a campground near our downtown as money is being spent to improve the downtown area and I understand that, but we need a solution. Just kicking these people out or making it illegal to exist will not change the problem."

    The Amarillo Police Department told KVII they are not involved at this point, meaning they are not issuing citations to the campers.

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