The Homeless Crisis in Austin; It's Time for People to Speak Out
I moved to Downtown Austin in the spring of 2017 when I married my husband Doug Aldeen. We minimalized in an unbelievable way, but we love our home and our life. Austin has swelled into one of America's latest boomtowns, showing up on nearly every list of the best places in the U.S. to live, start a business, etc.—you name it. There are a great number of changes, from an ever-climbing downtown skyline to rising costs of living. Downtown Austin is our home and we love it.
However, a few weeks ago, the City of Austin passed an ordinance that allows homeless people to camp in public spaces (excluding private property, parks, and City Hall). Doug and I began to see the huge difference in our beautiful neighborhood right after this ordinance was passed. People sleeping in the bridge by the lake, in the corner street under a temporary tent, people with trash all around them, people come constantly to us asking us to give them money, some of them, which are probably mentally ill screaming and us, etc. We walk carefully so we will not step on people's vomit or yes, believe it or not, human feces. This issue of human feces on the sidewalks is no joke. We have seen it and its disgusting! I left with my car yesterday to go grocery shopping at Whole Foods, and a homeless man pushing a cart asking me to share my groceries with him, while another one was in a corner, yes, excuse the crudeness, defecating next to his portable tent. The problem of people’s poop has affected one of the wealthiest cities, San Francisco, CA. Between 2011 and 2018, San Francisco experienced a massive increase in reported incidents of human feces found on public streets. Does Austin want to become the next San Francisco? Do we really want that?
The homeless crisis in the city of Austin is terrible and we need to resolve this. Half of all people experiencing homelessness are in one of five states - California (129,972 people), New York (91,897), Florida (31,030), Texas (25,310) and Washington (22,304).
Unsurprisingly, the problem is far more visible in urban areas than overall. Those who spend time in these urban sites know that the problem is sad not only for us but for the homeless people as well. It would be nice to offer not only shelters, but a job for those able to work so they can sustain themselves and place themselves in a better situation. Mayor Steve Adler is telling people that we are required to reintegrate vulnerable people who’ve lost their footing. With all respect Mayor Adler and City council members: What in the world were you thinking by approving that policy? Do any of you LIVE HERE??
My friend Matt Mackowiak -who has been living here for more than thirty years- says we have never seen an issue like this with broader and deeper opposition than this one.
Doug and I understand that we need to be good Samaritans and care for the poor and the needy and many of us do many things to help those in need in different ways via ministries, nonprofit organizations and many other venues. Each person is free to do their philanthropy activities the best way they can but come on, with this new ordinance, with these loosened homeless laws that allow for sitting, lying or camping in public places without penalty we have ruined our city downtown. We don’t feel safe, it is disgusting to enjoy our walks and make sure we are not stepping in puke and people feces. This needs to stop.
I know it is in the plans of the city of Austin to open about three new shelters for the homeless in 2020 but even with that, will the people understand that there are consequences already for the policy approved by the mayor and the city council without taking the opinion of those concerned citizens who actually live here?
I do have great hopes in our City Manager Spencer Cronk. He is an outstanding, experienced City manager and I am sure he has been working hard and he is doing everything possible to mobilize heads and staff for the plan to open a new shelter this fall. But Mayor Adler and the members of City Council MOST make the decision to rescind the policy which allows homeless people to camp in public spaces because this is bad for tourism, the Austin economy, public safety, public health and for those who live here.
We need to save our beautiful Austin, and I encourage all of you to sign the petition to rescind the homeless camping ordinance in Austin. This petition was an initiative started by Matt Mackowiak. You can sign the petition via this link. Sign the petition now!