Downtown Austin Alliance to hold homeless ordinance forum featuring APD Chief Manley

Longtime downtown Austin business owner Bob Woody owns more than 20 properties, including the Coppertank Event Center.  

"This is 5th Street, Convention Center's at 4th Street,” Woody said. “So this is very popular and it's eclectic, it's a cool building.”

Woody says he occasionally shows the venue, in the heart of Austin's entertainment district, to out-of-towners who want to rent it for hundreds of people.

"Somebody's laying here and somebody's laying here, and I'm walking ladies up to look at possibly renting the venue and I can't ask these people to move...that's a situation. That's a situation," Woody said.

That's the situation Woody and many business owners say they are facing since the city made changes to ordinances that legalized camping, sitting or lying in public spaces like sidewalks.

"We have a situation where we should take a parental point of view to help these people straighten out what they've got...they're out of control and we're allowing them to be out of control," Woody said.

Bill Brice with the Downtown Austin Alliance says the D.A.A. has seen a difference since the new ordinances went into effect on July 1.

"Our observations are that we are seeing more people sitting and lying and camping in the public spaces,” Brice said. “Our ambassadors and the APD overtime officers that we pay to have on the street are actually collecting data on that so we'll actually have some empirical information to be able to determine 'are we really seeing increases?'"

Next Tuesday, the D.A.A. is sponsoring a public forum. They have these several times a year but this one will be focused on the ordinance changes.  

"Chief Manley will be on hand, along with interim Homeless Strategy Officer for the City of Austin, Veronica Bresino, and I on a panel to basically inform the community," Brice said.

The audience can submit written questions about the new laws and the issue of homelessness in general.

Mayor Steve Adler reiterated over the weekend that the city manager is working on a system.

"We can in this City, say there are places that are not so safe for people to be, along heavily pedestrian trafficked roads, near traffic that's speeding by, near our floodways,” Adler said. “We can say that's not the safest place for people to be and not have people stay there but then we have to say then where people can in fact go.”

"That should have been done before a blanket ordinance went into place," Woody said.  

Brice is hoping the data the D.A.A. is collecting will help inform the city manager's list of recommendations of where people can and cannot be.

The Downtown Austin Alliance forum is 5 – 6:30 p.m. July 23 at Central Presbyterian Church on 200 E. 8th Street.