City staff suggest restrictions to homeless camping
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Austin’s city staff might propose restrictions to where homeless people can camp in Austin, according to a memo released Friday.
The memo from Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzales and the city’s homelessness strategic office said the city’s staff likely will recommend disallowing camping in areas with high pedestrian and vehicle traffic, as well as in floodways.
It is unclear when the City Council might make more specific recommendations and how those proposed restrictions might affect homeless encampments under overpasses. City rules already prohibit camping in parks and at City Hall.
The proposal comes after the City Council has faced significant pushback in connection with a vote in in June that eliminated several local ordinances related to homelessness, including a panhandling ban and a no-sit/no-lie ordinance. But the most controversial ordinance was the camping ordinance, which many fear will create tent cities for those experiencing homelessness in Austin.
Staffers have met with the Downtown Austin Alliance and the Greater Austin Crime Commission in recent weeks to see how to best adjust the ordinances.
The memo also states that staffers will abandon any efforts to identify allowed camping and parking areas for people experiencing homelessness. Citing multiple recent studies, the memo states that creating those spaces would tax city resources better spent on housing homeless people.
“For the above reasons, the Homeless Strategy Office will respectfully not bring forth recommendations for authorized encampments nor options for parking areas,” the memo said. “Rather, the focus will continue to be on Housing First and the deployment of actions targeted toward rapid re-housing, emergency shelters, low-barrier housing-focused shelter, and permanent supportive housing.”
By Philip Jankowski