AUSTIN, Texas - Since voters passed "Prop B," the City of Austin has begun to look for areas for sanctioned homeless camps. The city released a list Tuesday that includes more than 70 parks and recreation centers throughout the city.
The list is preliminary and will change, a spokesperson for the city said.
In a statement they said:
The sites identified in today's presentation to Mayor and Council are preliminary locations. The lists we have provided are only a snapshot of the sites where we have done the initial analysis that Council requested. These sites are not final and the list will most certainly change. Some locations may come off, and others may be added, as part of an ongoing examination of potential sites. Staff will continue analyzing properties and will work to present Council with an update in June.
One of the sites on the list is the South Austin Recreational Center.
Tuesday, Rachael Koske was there with her daughters at the playground, when she found out about the space being used as a potential site, she said it was a great idea. "We need to be spending the resources that we have in the city to help those without resources," she said. "Especially now that there are punitive measures in place."
Koske said she doesn't see the problem with people camping in the park spaces, she said she thinks it may help address the bigger issue.
"I think the misconceptions about the homeless populations are large," she said. "They are part of our community too, so I think the more you can blend that and make that visible, the better."
For Alex Vrarel and his friends, they agree. They have been friends for years and come to play soccer out here at least once a week. "When we come out maybe we can play with them too," Vrarel said.
Saying having this space used as a camping site, won't impact them. "They’re not going to do nothing to us, we’re not going to do nothing to them," he said.
However, not all agree. On Twitter, Austin City Council Member, Mackenzie Kelly said that she doesn't support the utilization of existing park land.
Others at the park said that if the city approves the site, it will cause safety concerns.
Council will be presented with an updated list in June.
Save Austin Now co-founders Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek released the following statement after evaluations were provided regarding the city’s proposed homeless encampments:
"We want to highlight that on May 11 the city on began enforcement of Proposition B, the strong, bipartisan vote that reversed the 2019 decision to allow unregulated homeless encampments across our city. Unfortunately, today the City Manager released to council a plan that would not only ignore the will of the 58% majority of Austinites who went to the polls but make matters worse by placing permanent encampments in every single neighborhood in Austin, and in many cases inside city parks or near locations with large collections of children and families like libraries. We will fight every single encampment location that destroys our environment or risks the safety of families and children.
"The proposal is based on the premise that city councilors do not want to make any difficult decisions, and as such want there to be homeless encampments designated in every single city council district in our city. The proposals include some of our most beautiful parks including Walter E. Long, Commons Ford, Mary Moore Searight, Bull Creek, Roy G. Guerrero, John Treviño Jr., Circle C and Dick Nichols. They also want to take over Five recreation centers used predominantly by low income working Austinites: Parque Zaragoza Rec, Givens Rec, Northwest Rec, South Austin Rec, and Austin Rec. ]
"What the voters said was clear. If we need to be even more clear: First, no homeless encampment should be designated within walking distance of a pre-k, primary, middle, or high school. Second, no city park or recreation center, which are used disproportionately by low income working Austinites, should be turned into a permanent homeless encampment.
"Austinites came out to vote for Proposition B, according to our polls, for two primary reasons: First, the city council’s policy led to their beloved parks being overrun with trash, needles, and feces. Second, feelings of safety in neighborhoods and around schools close to encampments had plummeted. Third, personal experiences and encounters with verbal and sometimes physical harassment. Placing homeless encampments permanently in every single city council district in our beloved public parks doesn’t’ just ignore the will of 58% of Austin voters, it throws hot water in their face.
"As we await Senate floor consideration, days after Austin voters passed Proposition B, the Texas House passed HB 1925, legislation authored by State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) which bans public camping statewide. The bipartisan vote was 88-56, with six Democratic ‘aye’ votes, and includes penalties for cities that forbid law enforcement and other agencies from enforcing laws on the books, which the city is doing now. Since May 1, Austin has deliberately failed to enforce what voters voted for. The State bill also requires cities receive state approval before designating homeless encampments. It is so unfortunate that despite broad, bipartisan majorities giving City Council clear guidelines, they continue to ignore the will of the people."