AUSTIN, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Fifty-seven percent of voters in Austin, Texas, approved a ban on camping in public as a remedy for the growing homelessness problem earlier this month.
“Austin leans politically to the left for sure, but it’s a large city with populations on the outskirts that don’t vote that way, said Matt Mollica, executive director of Ending Community Homeless Coalition Austin. “I think the visual nature of homelessness is something that a lot of people want to see addressed.”
For Austin’s business community, the visual factor was a significant concern.
“It also has had a negative impact on business, and that’s particularly on small businesses and businesses associated with our visitor industry,” said Downtown Austin Alliance vice president Bill Brice.
Austin counted nearly 20 million visitors in 2018.
In 2019, the Austin City Council lifted a public camping ban, now canceled by this month’s vote.
“I think that people from either party, proven by the vote outcome, supported Proposition B to a high degree,” stated Brice.
Solutions to the crisis have always been elusive, but homeless advocates in Austin said that the proposition puts the cart before the horse.
“We don’t have a place for people to move to. But also, they’re not going to be allowed to stay in the places where they are,” said Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center director Mark Hildelink.
While Hildelink thinks this is an impractical path, the “Save Austin Now” coalition that brought the vote calls it the only avenue.
“It’s finally gotten the city council’s attention because there was no other recourse,” said Save Austin Now’s co-founder Cleo Petericek.
She added the city has the resources to provide campgrounds.
“Austin voters are saying, ‘Hey, find places for them now. It is inhumane. Let’s get on the path toward finding shelters,'” said Petericek.
Part of the reality is that some of those who line up at sunrise for food and health services aren’t even against Proposition B.
“Honestly, I’m all for it because of the way that they’ve kind of taken advantage of things. And it kind of messes it up for the people who really do need things and do need the help,” said Brianna.
“Actually, I think it’s sort of a good thing, but I don’t think they’re ready for it because I don’t think you got enough places to put homeless people,” said Albert.
That remains the biggest concern among those who tend to Austin’s homeless.
“I think a lot of people when they went to vote on May 1 believes that they were actually voting against homelessness; I think they’re gonna be really disappointed to realize that when a month from now rolls around, there’s still gonna be homelessness,” said Hildelink.