Downtown town hall held on city's homeless ordinances

Talk 1370 Newsroom
August 21, 2019 - 8:23 am

AUSTIN ( -- City officials attended a town hall Wednesday morning on Austin's homeless challenges - and got an earful from those in attendance.

Hundreds of people packed into the Austin Convention Center for a town hall forum sponsored by the Downtown Austin Alliance. Mayor Steve Adler and city council members Kathie Tovo, Ann Kitchen, and Greg Casar attended as well, two months after council voted to scale back the city's camping, panhandling, and sit-lie ordinances.

Council members say the change in ordinances is necessary to decriminalize the mere act of being homeless. Critics of the changes cite a marked increase in the visibility of homeless people along public spaces, especially in the downtown area; they also worry about encouraging more homeless people to move to Austin.

Wednesday's town hall came a day after Adler, Tovo, and Kitchen proposed steps forward to address the ongoing challenge of homelessness in Austin. The proposal calls for increasing restrictions on camping, sitting, and lying, including camping adjacent to roadways and medians, sidewalks and trails, schools, creeks and rivers, existing shelters, and other areas with high pedestrian activity.

Adler says city staff will draft a memo by the end of the month, with council votes expected in September. Additional public forums will be held in the next few weeks as well, giving more members of the community their chance to be heard on the issue.

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