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Tennessee makes camping out on public property a felony

Tennessee Park Closed at Dusk

Tennessee residents and organizers are camping out at Nashville’s Riverfront Park to protest a new state law going into effect on July 1.

The state legislature expanded a law that criminalizes people for sleeping on public property. Tennessee’s law will punish campers sleeping overnight on an interstate exit or under a bridge.

The class E felony comes with up to six years in prison and a $3,000 fine, which could another barrier to get housing in the future.

Open Table Nashville is coordinating the local action.

“It’s only going to criminalize folks and do the exact opposite of what the bill sponsors allege that it was created for,” India Pungarcher is an advocacy and outreach specialist with Open Table Nashville says.

The law comes as Nashville struggles to provide affordable housing to meet the increasing demand. The city has dedicated federal funds to affordable housing. It’s also closed homeless encampments and fallen behind in offering permanent supportive housing.

Ambriehl Crutchfield is WPLN's metro reporter. She has worked at NPR member stations WKYU in Bowling Green, Ky., WBEZ in Chicago and WVXU in Cincinnati. Most recently, as a General Assignment Reporter at Cincinnati Public Radio, she has worked to amplify underrepresent voices and perspectives.
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