LEON VALLEY, Texas – Updated June 7 at 10:47 a.m.:
The Leon Valley City Council on Tuesday night approved an ordinance that essentially bans homelessness or makes it illegal within city limits.
The ordinance bans camping, lodging, or erecting a tent between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. at any public park or other recreational spaces.
The ordinance also bans people from sleeping in a vehicle that is parked on a city street for more than 24 hours or more than two hours on a highway in the city limits.
Motor vehicles, campers and trailer coaches are not permitted to be used for “home habitation,” according to the ordinance.
Leon Valley city leaders are discussing a proposed ordinance that would essentially ban homelessness or make it illegal within city limits.
The proposed ordinance would not allow campsites or tents in public parks during certain hours or sleeping in a parked vehicle on a public street or highway for an extended period of time, among other things.
Camping or sleeping along or in a drainage ditch would also be prohibited, and parts of the ordinance would make it illegal for individuals to block or panhandle in public streets or areas.
“I think it’s happening kind of all over the country — the homeless issue where people are taking up public spaces, putting up tents, encampments — and it’s really not safe for the public and for the homeless themselves,” said Will Bradshaw, Leon Valley councilman. “We’ve seen fires in the common areas, in the parks, obviously drugs and paraphernalia.”
Bradshaw said taking a hands-off approach ignores the problem, but he also wants to address the issue humanely.
“We’re offering help to the homeless shelters, Haven for Hope, etc., where they can go,” said Bradshaw. “I think the issue is a lot of them don’t want help. They don’t want to go anywhere.”
The proposed ordinance has been met with some pushback by homeless agencies that want to find a solution to the problem rather than add more issues.
“We agree with the policies we’ve had in place over the last few years that making homelessness illegal doesn’t ultimately solve the issue. It just continues to displace people and move them around,” said Katie Vela, executive director for the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH). “We understand that sometimes encampments have to be abated when there are severe issues or drugs. But we want the community to work with us on what’s the longer-term solution. Learn more about homelessness and the root causes behind it.”
Vela added that getting more street outreach outside San Antonio is key to finding a solution.
“San Antonio has a street outreach team for all 10 council districts, but the smaller municipalities are not part of their service area,” said Vela. “And so we’re going to meet with the city and the county to talk about how can we get some street outreach capacity in these smaller municipalities.”
Vela said the approach they want to take is to engage with people and connect them to different services.
“We’ve seen people take that next step once there’s a relationship and trust,” said Vela.
Tuesday’s city council meeting was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Bradshaw said the proposed ordinance would be discussed, but there could be changes to the proposed law, and a final vote may not take place.
He added that potential enforcement of the proposed ordinance by Leon Valley police officers had not been determined.
“It’s not something that we can continue to ignore and just hope that it goes away,” said Bradshaw. “It’s not going to go away. It’s something that we need to try and resolve humanely and try and help these people.”