U.T. Austin Freshman Haruka Weiser's murder has shined a brighter light on homelessness around Austin. Police say the suspect alleged to have killed her, Meechaiel Criner, 17, is homeless.
"I am saying the homeless population in Austin as a whole needs to get help," says Sophomore Tanner Golden adding, "I hope we get the drag cleaned up a little bit."
A petition he started for a class assignment last semester picked up steam after Weiser's death. "My only cousin that I've ever been close to. He died at Occupy Denton. He was homeless," Golden says, adding, "I never met my grandpa, he was homeless. That's another one, so I am pretty familiar with it."
Will Dwyer, who has no affiliation with U.T. started a petition too. One to get Tanner banned from "The Drag" along Guadalupe Street. "It's intended for people to read it to realize he is asking for an extreme thing without a lot of logical reasoning behind it," Dywer says, adding, "There's a lot of extra words in there that creates this image of a dangerous community that we need to fear and not help out,"
The two met for a lively conversation on the stretch that's at the heart of their debate.
"When I read your petition, I thought that it was worded very poorly," Dwyer tells Golden.
Tanner's response? "I never trashed the homeless community, I just said that U.T. had a problem that needed to get solved."
The non-profit Echo Austin mapped out the city's homeless population. Out of the 2,197, 16% are spread out across the Downtown and U.T. area's.
"They need to step up the rehab programs, they need to put an eye on mental illness, which is a huge problem," he says referring to the suggestions he'd like to offer the city.
"It's not saying he wants to help them he's saying he wants to move them," says Dwyer. "I do not see a scenario where I am working with him to further the goals."
While it's doubtful the two will ever see eye to eye. It's likely they'll both keep campaigning for their cause.
"Now I'm hoping the petition will raise awareness of mental illness," Tanner says, "and that now I can actually use it to make change, and it's more than just an assignment."
Echo Austin offers the attached pamphlet for their clients as a reference for resources offered to the homeless population throughout the city.