Everything we know about Austin’s new camping ban
AUSTIN (KXAN) – Residents of Austin voted in the May election to reinstate the city’s camping ban. But what happens next? We compile a list of all the answers we can get from city, county and state leaders and provide them here.
What is a camping ban?
Proposal B, which voters passed on May 1, makes it a criminal offense – a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine – if you sit, lie down, or camp on public property. It also prohibits begging at specific times and places.
Most camping bans, including the one the city of Austin used for years, defines camping as “the storage of personal effects, the use of a tent / car for accommodation and cooking”.
While this new rule applies to public property, it is important to note that camping on someone’s private property or in a park was never allowed.
Recreational camping or cooking authorized by a permit in campsites in a park is not affected.
When will Austin’s new camping ban go into effect?
Camping in the city of Austin will no longer be legal as of Tuesday, May 11.
How will the city of Austin enforce the new camping ban?
On Monday, May 10, leaders in the city of Austin released a schedule and details on the rollout of the ban.
The ban will be rolled out in four phases. Here’s what we know so far:
Phase 1 – As of May 11, a 30-day period of community engagement and education will begin. Meanwhile, the Austin Police Department will provide verbal warnings to people found camping – in addition to resource information. This excludes cases which are imminent for safety or health.
Phase 2 – Phase 2 will be another 30 day period, during which APD will begin issuing written warnings and initial citations.
Phase 3 – During phase 3, the DPA can initiate arrests and / or start cleaning up camps in areas that have not been cleared following summons.
Phase 4 – During phase 4, summonses and arrests will continue as needed. APD will work with the City of Austin’s Homeless Outreach Teams to help provide further information on resources, when available.
The city of Austin says the business will be a group effort, saying in part:
“… Implementing the ordinance will require a coordinated effort across multiple departments including Austin Police Department, Homeless Strategy Division, Homeless Street Team, Court downtown Austin community, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and others.“
An important part of this approach should include educating homeless people. Austin police have acknowledged in the past that “every time there is a change, there is a little confusion.”
What will happen if the city of Austin does not enforce the camping ban?
On May 5, Texas House passed a bill to ban camping statewide.
The 1925 House Bill would make it a Class C offense for people to knowingly camp in a public place. The potential law would also punish local governments that fail to enforce the ban. It is identical to a similar bill in the Texas Senate which remains in committee.
The bill could give conservative state leaders the tools they need to force Austin City Council to enforce the camping ban or possibly enforce the ban itself using ministry resources. of Public Security. READ MORE
Roaming by the numbers in Austin
How many homeless are there in Austin?
According to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO, the exact number is difficult to calculate “because people fall and come out of homelessness all the time”. However, in January 2020, the One-Time Count (PIT) identified 2,506 people. Of these, 932 had no shelter, meaning they slept without a roof over their heads. A PIT count for January 2021 did not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But other estimates from ECHO and Integral Care indicate that between 5,000 and 9,000 unique people experience homelessness each year, if not more. READ MORE
What do homeless people think of the new camping ban?
Many homeless people are upset by the change in the city’s camping ordinance. They set up tents at Austin City Hall to protest the change. Groups representing the homeless say it creates barriers to ending homelessness. And those who are homeless have been even more blunt:
“It will be a death sentence for a lot of people if we don’t fight it and make sure the police don’t enforce it,” one homeless person told KXAN. READ MORE
What will happen to people who do not obey the camping ban?
Starting May 11, homeless people who do not obey the city’s new camping ban face fines, court dates or jail time. It was this so-called “criminalization of homelessness” that prompted the city of Austin’s leaders to lift the camping ban in 2019. READ MORE
Even before Austin began allowing public camping, a 2017 city audit found that “APD’s unofficial policy is to give people 30 minutes to get around before issuing a citation.” effort to limit quotes. “APD wrote 63% fewer sit / mens quotes in fiscal 2016 than in fiscal 2014,” the auditors wrote. (November 2017 Audit, page 5)
Solutions to end homelessness
What will the city of Austin do with all the homeless?
In the short term, the city of Austin has not said what it will do to homeless people in Austin, how it will try to house them, or if it will try to move them. This is one of the biggest questions people who help the homeless try to answer.
In the long term, however, the City is working on a larger plan. Two days after Austin voters overwhelmingly supported reinstating the camping ban, the Austin City Council Housing and Planning Committee voted on May 3 to advance a 3,000-person housing plan homelessness over the next three years – a plan that emerged from a homelessness summit in April.
In order to house 3,000 people in three years, 2,300 rental units would be provided by offering incentives to owners, while another 1,000 units with permanent support services would be developed. READ MORE
Didn’t the city of Austin buy hotels to house the homeless?
The city of Austin purchased three hotels to use as sites to house the homeless and turn them into permanent housing. City leaders want to buy a fourth hotel – the former Candlewood Suites on Pecan Park Boulevard – despite a lawsuit to stop it.
There is evidence that the previous sites the city has bought have helped get people out of homelessness.
Jason Fleischman spoke to KXAN in February. He says the addiction almost killed him eight months earlier.
He lived under US 183 in North Austin, but was taken to the old Country Inn & Suites. The city bought this hotel to give homeless people access to permanent housing. Fleischman said it saved his life. He now works part time and has signed a lease for his own apartment. READ MORE
What will happen to the state-sponsored homeless camp in Southeast Austin?
In November 2019, five months after Austin got rid of its camping ban, the state of Texas evacuated scores of people from underpasses on the freeway and offered them a home on state land in southeast of Austin via US 183 and Montopolis Drive.
The since-named Esperanza community has 24/7 security and resources for homeless people. This homeless site will not be affected by the new Austin camping ban. Its future depends on the heads of state.
Last November, plans were announced to build 200 small homes on the five-acre property.