I signed the petition to Rescind the homeless camping ordinance in Austin. I did so because, in my opinion a plan to address Austin homelessness issue should have been in place before altering the ordinance. Actions to help the homeless should have been taken first. To be specific, actions as simple as partnering with the State of Texas to use vacant buildings on the grounds of the Austin State Supportive Living Center (a.k.a. Austin State School) for transitional housing, staff to assist individuals with behavioral health disorders, substance use disorders, employment, housing, health care, and more.
Further, homelessness is not the responsibility of the City of Austin and/or Travis County alone. The State of Texas has responsibility to assist with housing and/or providing additional funding for individuals living on our highways and byways. Why? Because some individuals have been released from the criminal justice system, some discharged from the state hospital, and some are veterans with no place to go.
During my conversations with individuals under IH 35 between 7th, 8th street and 15th street; and Cameron Road under Hw 183, I learned firsthand that some arrived in Austin from other cities and states because they were given a bus ticket to Austin.
Another suggestion is to convene a summit to talk with individuals and entities regarding what can actually be done to move the needle in a positive direction to tackle this serious issue. No one group has all of the answers. There are non-profit entities, communities of faith (many offer services), businesses, corporations, and individuals who are interested in or impacted by this complex and complicated community concern. Some individuals and couples who find themselves living outside want jobs, others treatment for substance abuse or behavioral health disorders, others transitional housing, etc. Such a summit could include the very individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Difficult conversations must be held about expectations for individuals who find themselves in this difficult situation, services providers and the community.
The focus would be to define actions to address homelessness. To determine exactly who, what, where and how support is delivered, where gaps are, and who is willing to step into the breach once the gaps are identified. If the services and supports funded by jurisdictions are not creating the desired outcomes, it is time to identify different types of services/supports or other providers.
I know city staff visited other jurisdictions over the past year to find examples of progress being made to address this issue in other communities. A couple of cities have identified creative, positive way to move the needle. Seattle and Los Angeles were not in the top 20.
I repeat for emphasis, this is a concern for the City, County and State, there are no colors attached. We all want what is best for individuals living on the streets and in the fields. Please read the information below and consider signing the petition. Please also share with others who have an interest in this issue.