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About the recently-approved ordinance on unauthorized camping

Posted Sept. 24, 2019

Archived Content Information and links provided may no longer be accurate.

The City Council has approved an ordinance change that makes it easier for police and code compliance officers to address unauthorized camping on private property.

Here you’ll find answers to many of the most frequently asked questions about the new ordinance and how it will be enforced.

Q. What changes under the new ordinance?
A. Under the new ordinance, a camper must provide a police officer with written authorization to camp on a commercial property or on a developed or vacant residential property. In this case, authorization would be express written permission from the property owner or the owner’s agent.

Q. How is that different from the previous law?
A. Under the criminal trespass statute, a property owner is required to give notice that the camping is not permitted. Accordingly, if someone is camping on private property, the city could not ask the camper to leave unless it could be determined that the property owner had given notice that the camping is not permitted. That can be problematic where camping occurs on properties with owners who are difficult to reach or who are unresponsive to city officials. The new ordinance shifts the burden of providing documentation to the camper.

Q. What are the penalties for illegal camping under the new ordinance?
A. A person who violates the ordinance can be fined up to $500 and can be removed from the property. This is a misdemeanor violation. However, keep in mind that citations and fines are not mandatory and will be used as a last resort. The emphasis will be on educating campers about other housing alternatives and connecting them to available resources. Examples of available services may be found at FortWorthTexas.gov/DirectionsHome/.

Q. Is the Police Homeless Outreach Programs and Enforcement (HOPE) Unit currently issuing citations to campers?
A. None have been written so far. The HOPE unit follows a relationship-based style of policing, and the emphasis is on educating campers about housing options and connecting them to available services.

Q. What properties does the new ordinance apply to?
A. All commercial properties as well as both developed and vacant residential properties. A vacant residential property is one without a permanent dwelling or drinkable water source and restroom facilities.

Q. What about people living in a vehicle parked on private property?
A. Yes, the new ordinance affects those situations, too. However, like other types of camping, camping in vehicles is allowed with the authorization of the property owner. When officers encounter those camping in vehicles, the emphasis is on educating campers about more permanent housing options and connecting them to available services.

Q. Does this ordinance apply to public property?
A. No.

Q. Why was this ordinance change needed?
A. Unauthorized camps can create public health threats, can be fire hazards and may lead to lower property values. Community members had requested a way to prevent camping on commercial property. These requests came from neighborhoods, residents and businesses. Many citizens had expressed frustration because the criminal trespass statute would sometimes not allow officers to require campers to leave a property.

Q. What efforts are in place to move illegal campers into permanent housing?
A. This ordinance change actually makes it easier for officers to steer homeless people toward help. In August, Acting Police Chief Ed Kraus authorized a special unit of the Fort Worth Police Department — the Homeless Outreach Programs and Enforcement Unit, or HOPE — to work with outreach teams and community partners to first connect campers to services and encourage campers to seek permanent housing and reserve enforcement as a last resort. This specialized unit responds to unhoused individuals living in alternative situations such as encampments, vehicles, streets or vacant structures.

For more information about the HOPE Unit, contact Police Lt. Ladd at Amy.Ladd@FortWorthTexas.gov.

To report a campsite, contact Officer Kuzenka at Michael.Kuzenka@FortWorthTexas.gov.

If you or your organization is interested in assisting those experiencing homelessness, contact Directions Home Manager, Tara Perez at Tara.Perez@FortWorthTexas.gov or visit FortWorthTexas.gov/DirectionsHome/.

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Infrastructure & Transportation Committee Meeting: 1 p.m. Nov. 12, 2019; City Council Conference Room 290, City Hall, 200 Texas St.
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Fort Worth Crime Control and Prevention District Board of Directors Quarterly Meeting: 2 p.m. Nov. 12, 2019; City Council Conference Room 290, City Hall, 200 Texas St.
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City Council Work Session: 3 p.m. Nov. 12, 2019; City Council Conference Room 290, Second Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas Street.
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Trinity Metro Public Hearing - Service Standards: 6 p.m. Nov. 12, 2019; Central Station, 1001 Jones St.
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City Council Meeting: 7 p.m. Nov. 12, 2019; City Council Chambers, Second Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas Street.
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Disciplinary Appeal of Indefinite Suspension of Christopher Fitzharris: 9 a.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex, Classroom No. 1134, 505 W. Felix St.
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Zoning Commission Work Session: 11:30 a.m. Nov. 13, 2019; City Council Conference Room 290, City Hall, 200 Texas St.
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Day 1 Lone Star Film Festival - Free Films at Central: 12:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Central Library , 500 W. 3rd Street.

Zoning Commission Public Hearing: 1 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; City Council Chambers, Second Floor City Hall, 200 Texas St.
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Park & Recreation Advisory Board: 4 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Deborah Beggs Moncrief Garden Center, Fort Worth Botanic Garden, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd.
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Fort Worth Master Composters - Composting Tips and Tricks: 4 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Ella Mae Shamblee Library Branch , 1062 Evans Ave.

Transit Moves: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Greenbriar Community Center, 5200 Hemphill St.

Northside and River District Lead Utility Line Replacements Project Meeting: 6 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Northside Community Center, 1100 N.W. 18th St.

Community Development Council : 6:15 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Tarleton State University, Fort Worth Campus, Room FWB1-122, 10850 Texan Rider Dr.
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Marine Creek Ranch Park Project Meeting: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Parkview Elementary, 6225 Crystal Lake Drive.

Fort Worth Master Composters - Composting Workshop: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 2019; Southwest Regional Library, 4001 Library Lane.

Disciplinary Appeal of Indefinite Suspension of Christopher Fitzharris: 9 a.m. Nov. 14, 2019; Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex, Classroom No. 1134, 505 W. Felix St.
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Fort Worth Human Relations Commission Mayor's Committee on Persons with Disabilities: 10 a.m. Nov. 14, 2019; Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods, Room 201AB, 818 Missouri Ave.
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Health Fair at Southwest Community Center: 10 a.m. Nov. 14, 2019; Southwest Community Center, 6300 Welch Ave.

HUD Grants Training Workshop: noon Nov. 14, 2019; Trinity Habitat for Humanity, 9333 N. Normandale St.
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Regional Transportation Council: 1 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; North Central Texas Council of Governments, Transportation Council Room, 1st Floor Room,, 616 Six Flags Dr, Arlington, TX 76011.
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Urban Design Commission Public Hearing: 2 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; City Council Chamber, 2nd Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas St.
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Urban Design Commission Work Session: 2 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; City Council Chamber, 2nd Floor, City Hall, 200 Texas St.
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Meandering Road Project Meeting: 6 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; Faith, Hope and Love Ministries, 6154 Meandering Road.

Fort Worth Master Composters - Composting Tips and Tricks: 6 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; East Regional Library, 6301 Bridge St.

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Village Creek Parallel Relief Wastewater Line Part 2 Project Meeting: 6 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; Garden Acres Baptist Church, 10920 Stone Road, Burleson.

Global Entrepreneurship Week: Kickoff Celebration: 6 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; IREB Garden and Lobby, 3430 Camp Bowie Blvd.
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Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Commission: 6 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; Victory Forest Community Center Multipurpose Room, 3427 Hemphill St.
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Transit Moves: 7 p.m. Nov. 14, 2019; Victory Forest Community Center, 3427 Hemphill St.

Building Out a Successful Sales Program: 9 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019; Fort Worth Business Assistance Center, 1150 South Freeway.
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Global Entrepreneurship Week: Small Business Workshop: 10 a.m. Nov. 15, 2019; Shamblee Branch, Fort Worth Public Library, 1062 Evans Ave.
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Day 3 - Lone Star Film Festival - free films at central: 12:30 p.m. Nov. 15, 2019; Central Library, 500 W. 3rd Street.

Fort Worth Master Composters - Composting Tips and Tricks: 4 p.m. Nov. 15, 2019; Ridglea Branch Library, 3628 Bernie Anderson.

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