By\u00a0Reese Oxner\r\nThe Texas Senate on Thursday approved a bill to ban homeless encampments throughout Texas \u2014 a response to the city of Austin lifting a similar local ban two years ago that was recently reinstated by voters.\r\nHouse Bill 1925\u00a0would make camping in an unapproved public place a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. The bill calls for law enforcement officers to redirect homeless people to available local resources \u2014 such as shelters or nonprofit groups \u2014 \u201cbefore or at the time\u201d they issue a citation.\r\nThe House approved the bill earlier this month. The Senate passed the bill, along with two amendments, Thursday and sent the bill back to the House, which can either accept the amendments and send it to the governor or send it to a conference committee to work out the chambers\u2019 differences.\r\nImmediately after the vote, Lt. Gov.\u00a0Dan Patrick\u00a0said the bill passed 28-3, but the Senate journal later reported the vote was 27-4.\r\nIf the bill becomes law, it will mark the latest instance of the Republican-led state government overruling local ordinances.\r\nCities cannot opt out of the ban, but it allows for existing local ordinances that prohibit public camping to remain in place.\r\nThe law comes after 57% of Austin residents voted to reinstate the city\u2019s ban earlier this month, two years after it was lifted by the city council, a move that critics say triggered the proliferation of tent cities throughout the city.\u00a0Some 10,000 people are estimated to have experienced homelessness in the last year\u00a0within the city.\r\nAbbott has denounced the Austin City Council\u2019s decision to lift the ban and asked the Legislature to withhold state grant money from cities that don\u2019t ban such encampments.\r\nState Sen.\u00a0Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, \u2014 who authored the Senate\u2019s companion bill \u2014 said the bill is a \u201cfirst step\u201d to addressing homelessness in the state and that it bans people from turning public property into private property by erecting a shelter in a public space and engaging in activities like cooking, making a fire, storing personal belongings for an extended period, digging or sleeping. The bill outlines exceptions for recreational camping and camping on beaches.\r\nLawmakers said they hope the bill will direct homeless people to resources that can help them out of homelessness. State Sen.\u00a0Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, called it the \u201chumanitarian bill of the session.\u201d\r\nSenators adopted two amendments Thursday to ban cities from turning parks into encampments and to strike the word \u201carrest\u201d from the bill \u2014 an attempt to clarify that the bill is not meant to put people in jail.\r\nState Sen.\u00a0Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, the only senator to speak against the bill on Thursday, said she thinks it does too little to support the homeless population in Texas.\r\n\u201cI understand the desire of this body to send a strong message to the city of Austin,\u201d Eckhardt said. \u201cI will not defend the city of Austin for lifting a camping ban without a plan, because it did not help these poor people find their way to a home. But also I cannot support a statewide camping ban that does very little to help these poor people find their way to a home.\u201d\r\nState Sen.\u00a0Jos\u00e9 Men\u00e9ndez, D-San Antonio, said he hopes a statewide encampment ban will connect more people to resources and places that afford them more dignity.\r\n\u201cHaving people live under bridges is not humane. Having people experience all of their bodily functions out in public is not humane,\u201d Men\u00e9ndez said. \u201cIt's not right.\u201d\r\nHe mentioned Haven For Hope, a 20-acre community and shelter in Bexar County that offers housing, health care, and other services for people experiencing homelessness. Men\u00e9ndez said the organization previously testified in favor of the bill because officials believed it would help them get more people to the shelter.\r\n\u201cI believe that we need to send a message that we cannot just say it's OK to sleep wherever you want, and then we can forget about you,\u201d he said. \u201cWe are not helping homeless people by putting them in a tent, we have to provide services for them, we have to treat them like human beings.\u201d\r\nBut Eric Samuels, president and CEO of the Texas Homeless Network, said a statewide ban would cause people experiencing homelessness to become more invisible, damage trust between them and law enforcement, and impose fines on one of the state\u2019s most vulnerable populations.\r\n\u201cI've never seen any city, anywhere in the country that has reduced homelessness because they have banned camping,\u201d Samuels said. \u201cIn fact, I would argue that in a lot of cases it's helped increase homelessness because if people have criminal histories ... that all builds up, and that will place an enormous barrier on someone who is trying to escape homelessness.\u201d\r\nThis story originally published by the Texas Tribune.