Austin business owners struggling with hostile homeless

Right in front of Royal Blue Grocery on Congress Avenue sits a baby stroller full of stuff.

"We have a person's belongings right here next to our patio,” said Craig Staley, one of the owners. “They've been here for weeks. We can't say anything about it, APD can't say anything about it. It's an obstruction...but that's a very gray definition with the ordinance change." 

Staley has been vocally opposed to how the Austin City Council is handling the homeless situation. He was one of nearly 800 concerned Austinites that showed up to last week's town hall meeting on the issue.

"How are we going to address the mental health crisis and drug addiction that's going on in our streets?" Staley asked at that meeting.

"We didn't create any more people experiencing homelessness in this city in June. It's now perhaps more visible than it was in June," Mayor Steve Adler said at one point during the meeting.

Just a glimpse of what's happening in front of Royal Blue shows sleeping, panhandling, screaming, and very apparent mental health struggles.

When Council legalized camping, sitting and lying earlier this summer, Staley says they immediately saw a difference.

"Immediately we saw a difference to both the number of people here, the length of time they were staying, and also their behavior in our stores changed, it really felt like there was an empowerment to some extent," Staley said.

Staley even considered closing the Congress location early at 6 p.m. to avoid troubles at night.  

"We calculated we'll lose about 20 percent of our revenue which probably makes this a non-profitable store at that point. 2 1/2 jobs will disappear," Staley said.

They're delaying making that change and Staley says that's thanks to an increased presence on Congress Avenue by Austin police officers.

"We haven't had as many criminal trespass notices filed, we haven't had as many 911 calls for help, it's definitely changed," Staley said.  

Even though it's on the backburner for now, Staley says they will if it goes back to the way it was.

“But if it goes back to the way it was 4 weeks ago, we're doing it. We can't deal with that," Staley said.  

The problem is not just downtown. Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gunworks in South Austin captured a man harassing people on store surveillance.

"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.

Cargill walks out for a chat with him in the video.

"I came out and talked to the guy, I said 'Hey I need you to calm down a little bit, let's bring it down and tell me what's going on in your life, why are you so upset? Maybe I can help you,'" Cargill said. "The police took probably about an hour and 30 minutes or show to show up."  

Cargill also captured another incident with his cell phone.  

"Defecating, and some other stuff and also shooting up, right by our front door. When I had customers, I had a class going on," Cargill said.

"Only thing that's going to come from this is just complete lawlessness and we cannot live like this because in one year, this is going to get 12 times worse," he said.  

Last week there was a big town hall at the Convention Center about the homeless issue. 

There's another one on Thursday at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at 6 p.m.  Mayor Adler and Austin Police Chief Brian Manley will be there.