City setbacks: Homeless Strategy Officer changes roles, Abbott sends new ultimatum

The City of Austin's Homeless Strategy Officer Lori Pampilo Harris, who came to the city from Orlando on September 9, is transitioning to a consultant role instead of a full-time City employee due to "family obligations" according to a city memo.

“In her revised role, she will continue guiding us in matters surrounding homelessness," the memo from the City Manager's office said. 

In an e-mailed statement, Harris assures the community she's committed to ending homelessness in Austin.

“This was not a decision I made lightly and I've had previous conversations with my immediate supervisor. I'm deeply appreciative of their understanding and willingness to work with me in a way that allows me to meet my family obligations and continue the work we've started,” Harris said.

Council Member Kathie Tovo says she's already been working with Harris and she doesn't expect any major changes with the new job role.

“I was thrilled when she came to Austin and while I'm disappointed that she won't be working on staff full time I'm really very glad that she's transitioning into that role as a consultant and she's going to provide enormous value to our city in that role,” Tovo said. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said, "Homelessness is our top priority, and I look forward to continuing to work with Lori and profit from her expertise." 

The question is: will the City be looking at hiring a full-time Homeless Strategy Officer? That remains unclear at the moment.

“I think over the next several months I expect our City Manager will see whether there continues to be a need for that Homeless Strategy Officer to be a full-time position here or whether this is the better relationship in terms of really affecting the most change,” Tovo said. 

Also on Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott sent Mayor Adler another letter, this time referencing a recent comment by Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.

“Although I know it doesn't necessarily meet the political will of our Mayor and Council right now, as the Police Chief charged with maintaining public safety, I have suggested that we put the old ordinances back in place while we work through a final solution,” Manley said last week. 

Abbott told the Mayor he agrees with Chief Manley.

"...Absent steps like reinstating the camping ban, the State will have no option but to use State agencies and resources to achieve a similar result. I remain resolute in using State agencies to address this task if action is not taken by Austin by November 1."