AUSTIN, Texas - The Save Austin Now Coalition already has nearly 90,000 signatures on a petition to reinstate the homeless camping bans in Austin.
“It's I think a reflection about the way the public feels about this disastrous homeless camping ordinance," Matt Mackowiak, chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, said.
Mackowiak started the petition back in July, shortly after the city council relaxed some camping ordinances in an effort to decriminalize the homeless. Mackowiak says since then, things have gone awry.
The petition needs 20,000 more signatures to qualify to be placed on the November ballot. It calls for an entirely new ordinance.
“We are proposing we reinstate the ban on public camping across the entire city. Second, we want to restore the sit/lie ordinance which was in place downtown. We are going to extend that to cover the UT campus and to cover an area two and a half miles around that campus,” said Mackowiak.
Thirdly they want to ban panhandling at night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
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“It's only fair to the citizens and it's only fair to the homeless individuals. We had a homeless person murdered yesterday or day before at a homeless camp in South Austin. We've had numerous fires where homeless individuals have been burned these last few weeks,” said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association.
The president of nonprofit Safe Horns says the city council must not forget about the student population.
“Mayor Adler asked to be endorsed by the university student body based on safety. Mayor Adler has done nothing for UT Austin students regarding safety. This is impacting the quality of life not only for Austin but for our students,” said Joell McNew.
Fox 7 Austin spoke to one of many advocates against the petition.
“It's a really bad idea to be going back to this old system which is unconstitutional, inhumane. It's counterproductive and it's really not reflective of the City of Austin's values,” said Emily Gerrick with the Homes Not Handcuffs Coalition.
Fox 7 Austin reached out to the mayor who did not respond for comment on Monday. Council member Greg Casar released a statement that reads:
“If the Travis County GOP Chair wants to spend a lot of money, time, and energy on a hurtful campaign that will do nothing to decrease our homeless population, that’s certainly his choice. But if Gov. Greg Abbott and the GOP Chair truly cared about public safety and public health in Austin, they would be working with the Austin City Council to provide housing and services to people experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, it seems clear that they are committed to making matters worse.”