A timeline of the homeless ordinance debate
AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Ahead of Thursday's town hall forum at the LBJ school on Austin's homeless crisis, FOX 7 is taking a look back at how all of this got started.
"We're having to explain to our children that people are in our community that don't have homes and I think this is a way that government can do good," Mayor Pro-Tem Delia Garza said at an Austin City Council work session earlier this summer.
Shortly after that, Austin City Council legalized camping, sitting and lying in public places like sidewalks. "I do think it's very good that they lifted that law. It's just too much of a headache, ain't nobody got no money to pay no $200 because they sat down on the concrete...because I didn't have a chair," one man told FOX 7.
Panhandling is now ok too - just not in an aggressive way. "You're creating a problem when you're telling people it's ok to panhandle. Go out and work. That's a 'no no,'" said Michael Ross, who is homeless.
Law enforcement feel the changes tie their hands when it comes to getting folks to move along.
After the ordinances were altered, the impacts - either perceived impacts or genuine -- started to come to light. A gas grill, tent and a life guard stand showed up at Ben White and Congress.
A downtown parking attendant was attacked on surveillance camera.
A large camp at Gillis Park cleaned up by City crews.
On Congress Avenue: sleeping, panhandling, screaming and obvious mental health challenges. "We have a person's belongings right here next to our patio. They've been here for weeks. We can't say anything about it, APD can't say anything about it," said Craig Staley, one of the owners of Royal Blue Grocery.
In South Austin, gun store owner Michael Cargill reports defecating, drugs and violent behavior near his shop. "He was pretty much just terrorizing the ladies that were leaving businesses trying to leave their vehicle. He threatened to kill someone, kill a lady," Cargill said.
Last week nearly 800 attended a town hall meeting at the convention center featuring Mayor Adler and Council Members Casar, Tovo and Kitchen. Adler said housing is the answer.
"I hope this community gets serious about actually solving the challenge. I hope this community does not satisfy itself with just moving people around," Adler said.
The City, along with Mayor Adler say sanctioned campsites around the city is not something they're going to do. But the hope is to identify places where camping won't be allowed, high-traffic areas like Congress Avenue and near the ARCH. But tickets won't be issued if a person is in violation.
This week UT Police Chief David Carter sent a letter to Mayor Adler encouraging the city to ban camping around the perimeter of campus and into west campus.
"If the ordinance says you can't camp here but there's nobody here that's going to tell you, you can't camp there I'm not sure what that exactly means. So we will be looking at that and there needs to be something significant there," Carter said.
Public forum with Mayor Adler on homeless issues to be held
Homeless camps at Gillis Park draw concern
ARCH director says camping outside shelter becoming emergency situation
Nearly 800 at Downtown Austin Alliance town hall forum on homeless rules
Austin police union president says updated camping ordinances are tying officers’ hands