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Update & Response to Camping and Sit-lie Ordinance Amendments

October 21, 2019

On Thursday, October 17, Austin City Council approved changes to the camping and sit-lie ordinances that:

  1. prohibit camping on sidewalks
  2. prohibit camping, sitting, and lying within fifteen feet of a door jamb of a residence or a business during operating hours
  3. prohibit camping, sitting, and lying within a specified distance of homeless shelters, including 4thto 11th Streets/IH-35 West Frontage Road to Brazos Street downtown, and within ¼ mile of shelters outside the downtown area

Council Member Alter offered an amendment to restrict sitting and lying on all sidewalks citywide that was supported by Council Members Tovo, Kitchen and Pool. While a majority of the city council did not adopt this or other amendments offered by the Downtown Alliance, the police department and other public safety advocates, the revised ordinance does add restrictions and clarity for the public and for law enforcement.

The amended ordinance goes into effect October 28, and the coming weeks and months will show whether the revised ordinance and direction in recent police training bulletins will restore public order.

Since June, we have worked directly with Mayor Adler, the Austin City Council, the Greater Austin Crime Commission and many stakeholder groups to develop constructive, solution-oriented recommendations to improve the ordinances. Our recommendations were grounded by our organizational goals to have a clean, safe and vibrant downtown; to broadly address the needs of people experiencing homelessness; and to mitigate the negative impacts of homelessness for those who live, work and visit downtown Austin.

We recognize that ordinances are tools that help law enforcement maintain public order and that ordinances do not and are not intended to solve homelessness. Addressing the issue of homelessness requires a different set of policies and solutions that provide safe and effective emergency shelter, social services, bridge housing, and long-term housing, which the Downtown Alliance is actively working to advance with many public, private and nonprofit partners.

The Downtown Austin Alliance steadfastly believes that everyone deserves to be safe and to feel safe in downtown Austin. Even though the Austin City Council did not approve all the amendments that we advocated for, we acknowledge the Mayor’s leadership and believe that the actions taken by City Council yesterday are a positive step forward.

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