Get the facts straight: Austin homelessness


Olivia Rutherfurd

Camps, like the one pictured under US Highway 183, will be banned in 10 days.

by Rachel Oliver, Editor in Chief

On Thursday, Austin City Council members updated the homeless ordinance, stating that all camping on city sidewalks will be banned in 10 days. Sitting and lying down will still be allowed. City Council members also approved the development of an $8.6 million South Austin homeless shelter.


What’s changing?

Compared to the original ordinance passed on June 20 of this year, homeless people located in Austin city limits will not be allowed to set up camps on sidewalks or areas with high wildfire risk. But they are still able to sit and lie down, as long as they are not within 15 feet of a business entrance. Camping, sitting and lying down is also banned under or within a quarter-mile of the ARCH and the future 100-bed South Austin homeless shelter. This will take effect in 10 days.


What was the original ordinance?

The original ordinance decriminalized homelessness and allowed camping, sitting and lying down. This was done because the tickets given to the homeless who camped were almost never paid which would result in arrest warrants. But once this ordinance was passed, Austin saw an increase in public drug use and public defecation which created public health and safety concerns. City Council met on Sept. 10 to update the original ordinance, however, they didn’t make a decision and the meeting was pushed back to Oct. 17.


What were the proposals they voted on?

City Council chose council members Ann Kitchen, Alison Alter, Kathie Tovo and Leslie Pool’s proposal out of three proposals. Their proposal banned homeless camping on medians, fire or flood risk areas, highway underpasses, specific streets and sitting or lying down within 15 feet of the entrance or exit of a business. Another, similar, proposal from Mayor Steve Adler states that it would be illegal for the homeless to camp if they’re knowingly obstructing public space. The interpretation of this would be left to Austin police officers. The third proposal was given by Delia Garza to keep homelessness decriminalized.