By Dallas Emerson, SARC Deputy Communications Director SARC
The City Council of Austin has failed to address homelessness in the city.
Think that’s too harsh? Mayor Adler agrees.
Don’t misunderstand, he doesn’t have a plan, and doesn’t want to reinstate the camping ban. He doesn’t really have any suggestions. Honestly, it feels a bit like he’s phoning it in at this time, given that can’t run for reelection.
In June 2019, the Council legalized public camping, stating that the goal was to make the homeless more visible. They got what they wished. You can’t walk downtown without seeing encampments on many streets. You can’t drive along MoPac without seeing tent cities that remind someone of pictures from The Great Depression.
Many of these encampents leaving people feeling unsafe. And for a good reason, according the Austin Police Chief, who noted a “growing crime trend”
Despite achieving the goal of increased visibility, the number of homeless per capita hasn’t changed, according to Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO). If anything, it has gone up. And the number of available shelter beds has actually decreased while the city focuses on developing transitional housing.
But if the city is changing tactics, why does the situation feel like its getting worse?
The city allocated about $70,000,000 last year to help provide home and shelters for the homeless. As of December, $30,000,000 was left unspent. Untouched. Unused.
Frankly, it seems that for some council members, running for Mayor is more important. Defunding the police is a higher priority. Giving the Mayor greater authority over legislations matters more.
Meanwhile, our city suffers higher crime rates and infrastructure damage as a result of the 10-1 progressive dominated council.
But laws will not fix the homeless issue.
This may be a failure of our city’s culture. Certainly, our churches should feel indicted. The presence of large numbers of homeless suggests that something isn’t working. Perhaps we are not charitable enough. Perhaps we are not active enough in helping those in need.
But it isn’t civil society on the ballot May 1st. We all must decide for ourselves how we will better help our neighbors.
In the meantime, we must tell the Council that we agree with the Mayor. This hands-off approach has been a failure. Our city is less healthy and less safe than before their June 2019 decision.
Moving forward I would hope that the city will actually get down to brass tacks and do the hard work of finding solutions to these problems, not merely treating our city as a laboratory for social theory. Allowing people to live—and die—on the streets hasn’t worked. These people need help, not a blind eye.
I have participated in cleaning up after a camp behind a local VFW was abandoned. It was horrifying. Human waste, garbage, and rotting food were piled high. No one should live in these conditions, and it is a miracle that Austin hasn’t seen an outbreak of avoidable diseases like some of California’s major cities in the past years.
For the sake of our city, vote yes on Proposition B. Helping the homeless doesn’t end there, but it is how we as citizens can alert our government to what they don’t want to acknowledge—a change in course must be made.