Homeless man tells FOX 7 visible camping makes 'city look dirty'

Tuesday afternoon: Ben White and Congress Avenue...a man wearing some sort of costume head holding a cardboard sign next to a growing homeless camp in between the lanes of traffic.

A tent, gas grill and a recent addition: a life guard stand.

Juan Jiminez-Tijerina says he doesn't associate with the folks who frequent that camp.  He is homeless though, at least for the moment.

"I didn't have a regular, permanent job but I worked as a day laborer.  And then I was crossing the street right here, South First and Ben White and this car hit me and took off.  Now I've got steel plate pens on my knee, my hips, and my shoulder," Jiminez-Tijerina said.  

Jiminez-Tijerina says he used to rent a room nearby but for the last couple of weeks he's been sleeping in his wheelchair.

As for camps like the one at Ben White and Congress, recent action by the Austin City Council legalized them -- an effort to decriminalize homelessness. "That's a good thing but...like that?  [referring to Ben White camp] It don't look right, it makes the city look dirty," he said.  

To protect first amendment rights, council also made sure simply asking for money in a non-threatening way wasn't against the law.  Juan says some who live on the streets do get aggressive. "If they don't want to give them money, they'll curse at them.  Not me.  And I get nervous...I don't want to disrespect you," he said.

The homeless ordinance changes have mystified business owners and homeowners across the city.

Tuesday evening, the Downtown Austin Alliance is holding a forum for the public and downtown property owners to get some things cleared up. "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," said the DAA's Bill Brice last week.

Jarod Carter says he plans to be there. "You go down Congress, you get harassed every block for money or you’re getting harassed for something," Carter said. 

You might remember Carter: he's the Vaughn Building parking attendant who called police on a man he says was doing drugs on the sidewalk.  Carter says that man attacked him.  

Police didn't make an on-scene arrest.  

He wishes the city would change the ordinances back. "We didn't hire them to just play school hall monitors.  You know?  They're officers, they need to do their job and whoever is above them telling them not to, they need to be addressed as well.  It's a problem," Carter said.

Jiminez-Tijerina admits there are many people experiencing homelessness in Austin that choose to be on the streets.  He's not one of them. "I want to work.  I want to go back to work, I don't like it...I don't like being like this.  I like having my own little place.  Even though it's just one room where I have to share a restroom with other people that rent there...as long as I know I've got a roof over my head and I can go to sleep and I don't have to worry about nobody trying to kill me while I sleep."



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