AUSTIN, Texas - Austin’s homeless camping ban is officially back in effect, ten days after voters passed Proposition B. It is now illegal to camp in most areas of Austin, sit or lie downtown or near the University of Texas, or panhandle at night.
With just hours to go until the ban took effect, officials finally gave some specifics on how enforcement would work. The city is taking a phased approach to implementing Prop B:
- Phase One: This phase begins immediately, will last 30 days, and focus on resources and education. Austin Police will give out verbal warnings during this period.
- Phase Two: This phase will last another 30 days, during which time APD will issue written warnings and initial citations.
- Phase Three: Arrests would begin, and police could begin clearing encampments if people living there do not comply with citations.
- Phase Four: Citations and arrests would continue, with APD coordinating with homeless outreach teams.
Those who are given a citation will be sent to the Downtown Austin Community court, where they would likely be assigned community service or connected with needed resources—as opposed to being fined.
City Manager Spencer Cronk, along with other city officials, will hold a virtual press conference Tuesday at noon to answer reporters’ questions about implementation of the camping ban.
Cronk had previously said that it will be a gradual process that will take some time. He says that process will start with outreach and education, and focus on public safety. He says multiple agencies will be involved — including Austin Public Health, Austin Police, Code, and Parks and Recreation.
"I know keeping the status quo wasn’t working, and I appreciate that there’s a rollout and an actual timeline, because prior to the vote we had no deadline. We just had chaos with no end in sight," said Cleo Petricek of Save Austin Now, which got Prop B on the ballot.
Addressing City Council on Thursday, Mayor Adler vowed the ban would be enforced.
"I know that it is everyone’s intent to move forward with the will of the community with respect to that ordinance and to put it into effect," said Adler.
As for those designated sites where people would be allowed to camp under the new ordinance, City Manager Spencer Cronk is set to report back to Council by Friday with potential locations.
"There needs to be somewhere for them to go, and I wish the mayor and the city council and the manager would have found these campgrounds as the governor did, quickly, two years ago," said Petricek.
FOX 7 spoke with Bradley Lewis, who has been camping under I-35. He says the ban makes his struggle to get back on his feet, even more difficult, and hopes the city actually helps those experiencing homelessness, rather than criminalizing them.
"Help us. Don't imprison us. Don't destroy us. We are still humans. We cannot help that what happened to us," said Lewis. "I didn’t ask for this. My dream as a child--I wanted to be a scientist, I wanted to be a pet veterinarian. I want to help animals, not be a criminal."
Petricek is concerned the city does not have a real plan for those who do not comply with the ban.
"What are you going to do with the noncompliant? Those who refuse drug treatment, who refuse shelter, even refuse a safe campground where they can have water, a toilet, a place to shower and restore their dignity? What are you going to do about those? And he has no plan," said Petricek.
Downtown Austin Alliance also spoke publicly about its thoughts on the plan.
Several city council members say the solution needs to be permanent supportive housing, not just city-approved campsites. Council has already moved to allocate 3,000 housing units for people experiencing homelessness. Council has also approved millions of dollars for housing and shelter space, which is expected to help with the influx of people coming out of camps.