Council talks homeless shelters and NAACP demands budget changes

City officials recognize there's a health and public safety problem at the ARCH. 

A combination of overcrowding and drugs.

Starting next week an initiative will begin intented to alleviate some of these issues.

Increasing police presence, lighting, and more.

On Thursday City Council voted to identify city properties that can be used as temporary shelters.

"The idea is to really try to reduce some of the overcrowding outside the ARCH.  There are many individuals out there for whom there are not enough shelter beds," said Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo.

Council Member Ann Kitchen brought forth an amendment to potentially identify 2 shelters.

"One that could be used to help the overcrowding downtown, one that could be used to house individuals who might not necessarily be in the downtown but be in a neighborhood south or north," Tovo said. Council needs to understand the funding for budget-planning so city staff will come back with recommendations in a couple of weeks.

Speaking of the proposed budget, Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder led a press conference at city hall to urge council to amend the City's proposed budget to include more dollars for minorities.

"Yet other folks have no problem in this city getting money, getting funding, getting initiatives. But when it comes to black and brown people, all we get is task force after task force after task force. We have no more room for task forces," Linder said.

Linder says he wants the city to quit talking about helping and actually invest meaningful dollars into East Austin.  Including non-profits that help with some of the issues the community faces everyday.

"Take money and put into critical areas like for example unemployment, economic empowerment, those areas work.  We have a huge income gap based on race that's been increasing.  Figure out how to do that," Linder said. Linder gave a range of possible amounts -- from $15 million to $50 million.

"First of all it's going to stimulate the economy.  It's going to address the unemployment, it's going to address the infrastructure," he said.

District 1 City Council member Ora Houston agrees with Linder, saying the neglect of East Austin is a systemic problem. "I don't have anything to say about it except that they're accurate.  Whether that will get worked on as we keep going through the budget process, I'm not sure.  But this has been something that the City of Austin has historically done to communities of color," Houston said.

Both Mr. Linder and Council Member Houston spoke out against a proposed "tax swap" with Austin ISD that was discussed yesterday. Council has to vote on the budget in September and Houston says over the next month, the tax swap discussions will be a distraction from this issue because they'll have to be discussing what that could mean for communities, the elderly and Austinites who are just barely hanging on.

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