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City of Austin poised to reverse course on homeless camping, issue new restrictions

CBS Austin file image of homeless camp.
CBS Austin file image of homeless camp.
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Tuesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Kathie Tovo and Ann Kitchen released a new proposal to tackle the city’s homelessness issue.

The proposal comes two months after council passed a controversial ordinance allowing sitting, lying and camping in public places.

Since the ordinance went into effect, Austinites like Kim Vonsermuellen say they’ve noticed an increase in homeless camps creating safety risks and health hazards. "I've lived in Austin my whole life and my beautiful city is a mess, and I hate it,” says Vonsermuellen.

The six-page proposal addresses camping in public places and goals for housing resources.

It lists possible places to increase restrictions on camping, sitting and lying, including:

  • Adjacent to roadways and medians
  • Sidewalks, paths and trails
  • Schools/ childcare facilities
  • Creeks, rivers, high fire risk areas
  • Areas with high pedestrian activity
  • Shelters including the ARCH

Mayor Adler says his goal is to protect everyone’s safety while also giving people experiencing homelessness new housing options. “I’m tired of spending millions of taxpayer dollars just moving people around,” says Adler.

He’s proposed solutions for more homeless housing but encourages churches, businesses and neighborhoods to contribute as well.

Adler’s proposals also include using non-policing tools to help people move to safer areas and placing restrictions on the size of tents/ structures and volume of belongings for homeless.

City leaders plan to draft a memo by the end of the month specifying new restrictions on the issue. They say the goal is to vote on changes in the coming weeks.

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Wednesday morning, city leaders are hosting a public town hall that starts at 10 AM at the Austin Convention Center.

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