Today the City Council voted on important revisions to city ordinances related to camping, sitting, and lying in public spaces to clarify that camping will not be allowed in unsafe areas that pose risks to public health and safety. The revised ordinance proposed by Council Member Kitchen and co-sponsors Council Members Tovo, Alter, and Pool, included several specific restrictions that were not adopted by the Council. The final vote was 7-4, with Council Members Kitchen, Tovo, Pool, and Alter voting against the Ordinance after it was substituted and amended from the dais.
“While the action today did achieve clarity in a few instances,” said Council Member Kitchen, “we still believe there is need for more specificity. I am disappointed that Council declined to clearly state in the law that areas like medians under our South Austin highways pose risks for our homeless neighbors. It’s time now to move forward and focus on the fundamental need to help our homeless neighbors find homes."
“While I am disappointed that a majority of my colleagues would not join us in advancing most of the measures that we brought forward,” said Council Member Tovo, “I believe that we as a Council and a community can learn from this experience – and grow from it. My dedication to providing a safe and stable home for all those experiencing homelessness is unwavering, and I remain fiercely committed to effectively ending homelessness in our community.”
“This latest challenge to our community will take time to resolve, given the complex and multi-layered circumstances of each individual’s reasons for living without shelter,” Pool said. “It is unfortunate that we are still without clear health and safety protections for people sleeping outdoors, however, I promise to continue working on this most critical issue.”
“The majority of people in our city do not believe it is mutually exclusive to be compassionate towards residents, including those experiencing homelessness, and also be responsive to those expressing their desire to ensure public health and order,” said Council Member Alison Alter. “It remains our duty as council members and Austinites to continue our efforts to help those experiencing homelessness and restore the community’s sense of public health and order.”
Council Members Kitchen, Tovo, Pool and Alter hope that, moving forward, the community will reach beyond divisiveness and refocus the discussion on solutions for the shared goal of ensuring that every neighbor has a safe and stable place to call home.
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