This week, the Austin City Council again took up the issue of homelessness, which has dominated much of its time since this summer when the previous ordinances were revised to allow sitting, lying, and camping in most public spaces. Since then, council members have faced intense pushback from all corners of the city, but have refused to make any notable changes in response to that public outcry. On Thursday, the council did vote on a handful of changes, but never once came close to discussing a full reinstatement of the old regulations.
Camping has now been banned in the following areas:
- In front of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless;
- In front of the Salvation Army in downtown;
- 1/4-mile around any Central Austin homeless shelter;
- Areas of high wildfire risk.
Areas not included in the revised camping ban include:
- Shelters outside of the Central Austin area;
- Near waterways and creek beds;
The changes do not prevent people from sitting or lying on a sidewalk, but they must remain at least 15-feet away from any doorway.
Council member Ann Kitchen tried in vain to extend the shelter camping ban beyonc Central Austin, citing a large number of concerned parents in her South Austin district which will soon be home to the city’s new $8.6-million homeless shelter. Kitchen said there was too much concern over the proximity of the new shelter to both the Galindo neighborhood and the nearby elementary school. Her amendment ultimately failed to win enough support.
The council’s 7-4 vote shows the level of disagreement among council members. Mayor pro tem Delia Garza said this one issue has become the most divisive she has ever seen.
One of the more pressing questions is whether or not these minor revisions will be enough to appease Governor Greg Abbott, who imposed a November 1 deadline for Austin to address its growing homeless problem.