AUSTIN, Texas – Austinites voted in favor of Prop B, which reinstates the camping ban downtown and in areas near downtown. The results were 57% for versus 43% against. Those who voted in favor said it was to help get Austin back to a “safer” city.
“If anything, this proposition is going to get the City of Austin to actually do something to address the issue for the safety of City of Austin residents and the safety of the unhoused homeless,” said Berenice Lara, an Austin resident who voted in favor of Prop-B.
With the reinstatement of the camping ban, it now makes it illegal to camp in certain places, sit or lie on public sidewalks, and panhandle at night. Austin City Council will vote to certify the votes and the ban will take place May 11th.
It is now in the city manager’s hands to figure out the details of an ordinance to actually enforce the ban, but Austin Mayor Steve Adler says he expects it to be enforced.
“What will end up happening is the city will have to certify the election, and then almost instantly after, it will then go into effect. It is not a difficult law to enforce because as we know, this is a reset of a previous policy, so it doesn’t require a lot of additional resources,” said Dr. Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University.
Austin City Council member Greg Casar, who had pushed for the camping ban to be lifted two years ago tweeted: “The overwhelming majority of Austinites share a common goal, no matter how folks voted on Prop B: get people from tents into homes.”
The Downtown Alliance said in a statement: “Voters across Austin have spoken, and the message is clear; voters expect more out of their city and community leadership…With Prop B’s passage, we must provide real solutions and not just enforcement strategies.”
Governor Greg Abbott took to Twitter Saturday night after the election results tweeting out: “Austin voters sent a clear and stern rebuke to Austin city leaders today by voting in a landline for prop B to require Austin to reinstate the public camping ban”
Austin Mayor Adler said this is a not political issue, saying no one wants to see others camping in tents.
“No one has ever wanted tents or camping in this city, but we have never had the plan that enough people would agree to move forward or enough resources to do that,” Adler said.
Lara said she cares about the homeless, it was just becoming a matter of public safety.
“This camping anywhere was detrimental to everyone,” she said. “It just showed that the City of Austin residents were fed up with the lack of public safety.”
In a statement to FOX 7 AUSTIN- Matt Mackowiak, Co-Founder of Save Austin Now said in part: “The overwhelming passage of Prop B is a clear and direct message to city leaders that a majority of austinites will no longer accept destructive policies that harm standard of living. We will judge policies by results, not rhetoric.”
Adler says he believes there is only one side on people camping in tents: “We don’t want them.”
“We want to get people out of tents,” he said. “We want to get them in a better safer place, we all want to do that”
Lara agrees. She said public safety and public health is a non-partisan issue.
“Democrats, Republicans, independents, they all want public safety for the residents of Austin and their families,” she said.
Adler said he believes the city is on a path, and has the momentum, to reach the goal of housing 3,000 homeless in three years, which is the goal of the summit.
As far as solutions go, Austin leaders are in the process of rolling out the “HEAL Initiative” to re-house and provide resources to people currently living in camps.
On Monday City Council’s Housing Committee will vote on a plan to allocate 3,000 housing units for people looking to transition out of homelessness. The full council is set to vote on that May 20th.
Mayor Steve Adler says he expects federal COVID relief money to go a long way towards making these initiatives a reality.