Austin's 'clarified' homeless camping restrictions in effect today

On Monday morning, new rules banning camping on all sidewalks in the city of Austin went into effect.

There was still a tent set up at 2nd and Brazos streets Monday morning.  A nearby hotel employee came out and said they planned to call the police to come address the situation.   

At the ARCH there was still camping outside on Neches which is also illegal now because it's near a homeless shelter.

The City of Austin says they've started passing a guide out to folks downtown saying "We are dedicated to helping you get off the street, into safe, long-term housing, and connected to vital services. We also want to keep you informed of rules and ordinances that may impact your daily life."

Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday says the new training bulletin for police officers is a lot to take in.

"It's extremely confusing. Very disappointing and playing favorites with people downtown. There's one class of homeless folks and then there's another," Casaday said.  

He says the clarifications the City Council made two weeks ago are a step in the right direction.
"I think it's a good start. However what everyone's missing out on is the law enforcement professional in this city that runs our Police Dept. has continued to ask the City Council for reinstatement of the old ordinances which has been ignored," Casaday said.

At Royal Blue Grocery, co-owner Craig Staley is still dealing with panhandling and loitering near his business and others.

"The 15-foot boundary for the door does absolutely nothing for us," Staley said.  

Staley says the new rules are a step in the right direction but there needs to be more clarification. He says employees at the Congress Avenue Royal Blue had to call police twice on Sunday for unruly behavior from folks he says were homeless.

"Both situations yesterday, there was not -- it wasn't theft, it wasn't a crime. It was just -- they wouldn't leave, they're being loud, screaming at people, spitting," Staley said.  

Meanwhile, a war is raging on Twitter between Governor Greg Abbott and Mayor Steve Adler. Abbott, who has threatened to bring in state reinforcements if the homeless issue isn't fixed by November 1, tweeted a video from 2018, blaming what's happening in it on Austin's "policy of lawlessness."

Adler shot back saying "Governor this video is almost 2 years old, well before any recent ordinance changes. This isn't the first time you've fallen victim to social media trolls."

Abbott tweeted back at Adler: "Thanks for making my point."

On Monday, Abbott posted pictures from an Austin meeting with HUD Secretary Ben Carson; the topic was Austin's homeless issue.

"We don't want to turn this into a war, we don't want to make it 'us against them' and I'm afraid that the Governor's tone is going to do that a little bit. But maybe he comes in and puts some lines in the sand and makes the City sort of step up some of the things they've already started," Staley said. 

Another new restriction on the books today: no camping, sitting or lying within 15 feet of a door jamb. But the Greater Austin Crime Commission tweeted out a "quick reference guide" for Austin Police officers. According to that guide, officers won't be enforcing that just yet. The department is still working on getting guidance and clarification on that part.