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Two local homeless advocacy groups oppose new prospective bill set to criminalize homelessness

JACKSON, Tenn. (WNBJ) - A prospective bill working to criminalize camping under bridges or on public property returns to the Senate agenda this year. 39 News talked to two homeless advocacy organizations about how this will overwhelmingly affect the homeless population.

“Here in West Tennessee, there are approximately 8 to 9 hundred homeless in our 23-county coverage area on any given day,” said Amy McDonald, the Executive Director with Tennessee Homeless Solutions.

Tennessee Homeless Solutions is an organization that works to address the issue of homelessness by offering permanent housing solutions.

The executive director of the organization believes this bill will further marginalize those suffering from homelessness and not address the real issue.

“I mean you just can’t arrest people for being poor and not having a place to live. So again, go back to the causes. Put some bills in place that can help us – agencies, social workers, and case managers so we can help them,” said McDonald.

The Helping Hand of Humboldt is another agency working to provide daily hot meals, groceries, and other necessities to the homeless in Gibson county.

The executive director of Helping Hand talks about how this bill could negatively affect the homeless population.

“I just have to say this is not compassion. In fact, it could result in these homeless individuals being charged with crimes putting additional roadblocks in the way of them obtaining jobs, bettering their situation, their education, and their housing situation,” said Jocelyn Bundy, the Executive Director with Helping Hands of Humboldt.

Both organizations believe part of the problem surrounding homelessness is the lack of shelters in the area and the Helping Hand of Humboldt hopes to be able to address this issue in the future.

“I am praying that the funding will come through. That God will provide a way, where we can build a homeless shelter here in Humboldt, TN and that will be our immediate solution for it,” said Bundy.

If the bill passes, violating this proposed law would be deemed a felony.

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