Last Thursday, the Austin City Council voted to amend ordinances on soliciting, camping, sitting and lying in public spaces. The new ordinance prohibits any aggressive confrontation, focusing on behavior regardless of whether a person is asking another person for money. Changes to the camping and sit/lie ordinances mean that these activities are no longer illegal unless the acts pose a threat to public health or safety, such as rendering the use of the right of way impassable, inconvenient or hazardous. The amended ordinances go into effect on or about July 1.
Along with the ordinance changes, Council passed a resolution directing the city manager to assess opportunities and make recommendations for immediate actions to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness. While we requested that the Council delay action on ordinance amendments until some of these actions had begun, we fully supported and contributed to the resolution as a much-needed next step. Below is a statement from our president and CEO, Dewitt Peart, in response to these changes:
“The Downtown Austin Alliance remains dedicated to helping solve the issue of homelessness in Austin, and we know there is still much work to do. The city manager is now charged with reporting back to Council in August with a plan to include areas where camping is permissible, time and place limitations for camping/sitting/lying, locations for additional temporary shelters, and more.
Much of Council’s direction to staff came from work our organization has guided through previous initiatives. After years of working to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness and research in this area, we intend to play a pivotal role in helping to inform the coming plan.”
We will be hosting a community meeting next month with APD to inform the downtown community of the changes and to discuss how this will impact enforcement in the downtown area. We invite you to stay engaged in this issue. Stay tuned for more details about the event coming soon.
Click here to learn more about our efforts to help to improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness.