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Support Funding for Immediate Shelter & Services; Community Input Critical Before Repeal of Ordinances

The Downtown Austin Alliance submitted the following letter to the Mayor and Austin City Council on June 3, urging the Council to pass item 49 on the June 6 City Council Agenda to provide immediate emergency shelter to those experiencing homelessness. We are also asking Council to allow for public input before the repeal of ordinances that limit camping and aggressive panhandling – Item 45 on the council agenda.

If you would like to make your voice heard on this issue, you can contact Mayor Adler and Austin’s City Council here.

June 3, 2019

Re: Items 45 and 49 on Austin City Council’s June 6, 2019 agenda

Dear Mayor Adler and City Council Members:

The Downtown Austin Alliance wholeheartedly supports the Council’s approval of item 49 on the June 6 agenda. In light of the 63% increase in unsheltered homelessness in Austin over the past five years, there is an immediate need for more emergency shelter. ECHO, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and local social service providers agree that we need more shelter but also agree that shelter must be accompanied by necessary services that help people quickly move into safe, stable housing. Passage of item 49 is an important step to toward that objective.

On item 45, we ask that you delay actions to amend and repeal the camping and sit/lie and panhandling ordinances to allow for community input on the best ways for the ordinances to be changed. These and other laws or ordinances should not be used to target or punish people who are homeless, but they are needed to address behaviors that jeopardize public safety and create unsafe public health conditions. It is currently legal to ask people for money in Austin, but it is not legal to do so in ways that create a sense of fear or threaten a person’s safety. Aggressive panhandling is a major concern among people who live, work and visit downtown, and elements of the ordinance that protect the public should not be removed.

The Downtown Austin Alliance has been a steadfast partner in efforts to address homelessness alongside the City, ECHO, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Integral Care and many other social service providers. We have helped educate the community, advocated for improved policy, helped create and fund many homeless initiatives and housing programs. We believe that Austin is on the brink of making great strides to address the issue of homelessness, and we know that giving all the stakeholders and partners the opportunity to make recommendations will result in the best outcomes to improving these ordinances.

We encourage the Council to support the passage of item 49 to quickly create more shelter and to delay approval of item 45 to give the community the opportunity to help craft ordinances that do not criminalize a person for being homeless but provide important tools to maintain public health and safety.

Sincerely,

Dewitt Peart

President and CEO

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