Homeless Crisis in Austin
Over the past several months, Austin city officials and state officials have been attempting to resolve the homeless crisis after Governor Greg Abbott disapproved of the city’s decision to decriminalize city camping. This law allows homeless people to set up tents under overpasses in downtown Austin instead of camping in the woods.
Back in June, the city council lifted a 25 year-old ban on city camping which caused a huge amount of the homeless population to camp on the overpasses, making the problem more visible. Austin’s Mayor, Steve Adler, has stated that the new law hasn’t caused the amount of homeless people in the city to go up, only that it has made the problem more apparent.
Before the ban was lifted, homeless people would be fined for camping in the city. However, homeless people were unable to show up to court hearings and pay the fines due to their lack of funds.
While the new law doesn’t fix the problem, it brings the homeless population out of the woods, where it’s more dangerous, and closer to resources. For example, medical resources and more job opportunities.
The law was met with criticism concerning the city’s public safety. The loudest critic has been Governor Abbott. He has been tweeting his disapproval of the law.
On June 23 he tweeted, “If Austin— or any other Texas city—permits camping on city streets it will be yet another local ordinance the State of Texas will override. At some point cities must start putting public safety & common sense first. There are far better solutions for the homeless & citizens.”
Many of Austin’s residents agree with the notion that the city camping law is a public safety concern. While the city is largely Democrat, many people were happy to hear that there was something being done about the homeless crisis. On Twitter however, the issue on what do relies on the political affiliation of the user.
Governor Abbott has ordered cleanups of overpasses, but this does not permanently displace the homeless people residing there. People will usually leave right before a cleanup, then set their tents backup once it’s over.
On November 7, Governor Abbott released a plan that would take five acres of “state owned land” and turn it into a homeless shelter with 300 beds, a storage facility, and a family unification program.
He also unveiled the new coalition, ATX Helps, who will oversee and run the shelter. The coalition is backed by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Austin Alliance, and a number of other businesses, nonprofit entities, faith-based organizations, and individuals, according to their website.
Southwestern Senior and Austin native, Sarah Peterson, gave her opinion on the homeless crisis. “It’s awful.”
If Southwestern students are able to donate any money to help the homeless population, there are a number of organizations they can look into. ATX Helps, Homes Not Handcuffs, Caritas of Austin, Foundation for the Homeless and several others. A search on Google or Ecosia will bring up dozens of organizations, so if students can donate then please do.