Homelessness

Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin will re-examine its new rules governing homelessness, according to a memo released Friday.

The memo sent to the City Council on behalf of Austin's Homelessness Strategy Office says the city could abandon its idea to make space for emergency encampments in every City Council district.

Daniel Johnson, who is homeless, sits on a bench on Congress Avenue in downtown Austin.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Just a couple of months ago, Steve Harrell got a ticket just for sitting in downtown Austin. It was around 4:30 p.m. and he was among a group of other people experiencing homelessness when a police officer approached, pointed at him and issued the citation, he told officials at an Austin City Council meeting last month.

Danny Bonura lives under an overpass
Julia Reihs / KUT

The City of Austin says it's prepared to boost spending on housing and homelessness assistance programs ahead of a state-mandated property tax revenue cap that goes into effect next year.

Brian Fleming lives under an overpass in Austin.
Julia Reihs / KUT

KUT hosted an hourlong discussion during Morning Edition on the issue of homelessness in the city, featuring guests across the spectrum, along with the people with the most at stake — Austinites living on the street.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, left, and the Downtown Austin Alliance's Bill Brice listen to interim Homelessness Strategy Officer Veronica Briseño at the forum on Tuesday.
Richie Loria for KUT

As the city adjusts to new rules for panhandling, camping or sitting or lying down in public, the Downtown Austin Alliance hosted a forum Tuesday to discuss the road ahead for dealing with homelessness and plans to expand emergency shelter access across the city.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin City Council's approval of a new city-owned shelter and its revisions to city law that expand where people can rest, camp and ask for money have sparked a polarizing discussion about public safety, public health and the future of Austin itself.

paul.wasneski/Flickr (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

Last week, Texas Standard reported on how three Texas cities – Dallas, Austin and Lubbock – are tackling homelessness. Now, The Texas Tribune reports a twist to the narrative that homelessness is generally on the rise. In fact, the Tribune reports that homelessness is actually going down in Houston.

Pu Ying Huang for KUT News

Revisions to Austin's rules against panhandling, camping and sitting or lying down in public are in effect.

Austinites have expressed concern about how the rules will impact those experiencing homelessness and how officers will enforce the laws. KUT asked the Austin Police Department to help clarify things.

How Three Texas Cities Are Managing The Rise In Homeless Residents

Jun 26, 2019
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

As the gap between the wealthy and poor has grown in places where the cost of living is high, cities across the country have been struggling with growing populations of people experiencing homelessness – people soliciting passersby, sleeping and living on public streets and in parks. In Austin, where the wealth gap has been skyrocketing, so have the numbers of people living on the streets.

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Mayor Steve Adler is pushing back against criticism of steps the City Council took last week to, as he says, address homelessness more effectively in Austin.

Emree Weaver for KUT

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he expects state lawmakers to overturn Austin's revision to its homelessness ordinances.

In a tweet last night, Abbott said "there are far better solutions for the homeless & citizens," referring to the Austin City Council's approval of new rules that loosen regulations banning camping in public.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said revisions to city laws banning camping, panhandling and sitting or lying down will "fundamentally change" how police interact with people experiencing homelessness.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin City Council voted to scale back city rules on camping, panhandling and sitting or lying down in public. Council members heard hours of impassioned testimony on the ordinances at the tail end of a marathon meeting that stretched into early Friday morning. 

Emree Weaver for KUT

Austin is getting a new homeless shelter. City Council approved the $8.6 million purchase of a building for a 100-bed emergency shelter at Ben White Boulevard and Bannister Lane.

Pu Ying Huang for KUT

At best, Austin's housing market is unforgiving. Though the city's renters outnumber its homeowners, searching for – and finding – an affordable rental can be hell. If you're transitioning out of homelessness, it's nearly impossible.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

City Council members voted to expand the number of beds in Austin's homeless shelters.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Homelessness increased 5 percent in Austin over last year, according to the results of Ending Community Homelessness Coalition's annual census. 

The survey, which was conducted overnight on Jan. 26 by about 500 volunteers, found 2,255 people experiencing homelessness on Austin streets and in shelters, compared to 2,147 people last year.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

An audit out today of homeless service providers in Austin says the city doesn't always hold them accountable.

Emree Weaver for KUT

A pilot program aims to clean up homeless camps in Austin, while providing resources to people experiencing homelessness here.

The initiative from the city's Watershed Protection Department (WPD) will include regular inspections and cleanups at nine designated “hot spot” camps to address environmental and safety concerns. Included are areas along East Riverside Drive, Wickersham Lane, Waller Creek at Eighth Street, Williamson Creek and Oak Springs Drive.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The Austin City Council approved a new contract of Front Steps – the operator of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. The agreement, which was unanimously approved, aims to bring systemic changes to the city's homeless shelter.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

People experiencing homelessness can now work for the City of Austin.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department, along with the Austin Public Health Department, The Other Ones Foundation and Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair highlighted the pilot program Monday in southeast Austin.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

A municipal court on Friday ruled in favor of Austin's ban against camping in public places.

In his decision, Municipal Judge Mitchell Solomon sided with the city in the case of Gary Bowens, an Austinite who has multiple citations for camping in public, a Class C misdemeanor that his attorneys and homelessness advocates say targets homeless people unfairly.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A lawsuit challenging Austin's ban on camping in public places was in court today.

Attorneys representing Gary Bowens, who is chronically homeless, argued in front of Municipal Judge Mitchell Solomon that the city law is unconstitutionally vague and violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Emree Weaver for KUT

It's a new fiscal year for the City of Austin, and one of the myriad items on City Council agendas over the next year will be an overhaul of ordinances relating to homelessness. That won't be easy, as federal courts could inform – and complicate – that effort.

Julia Reihs/KUT News

People experiencing homelessness in Austin aren't just on street corners asking you for money. There's a less visible population that has some service providers worried.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Part 2 of a three-part series

Mike Villegas was doing work around the house with his 12-year-old son on Christmas Eve 2016 when he noticed a police car parked outside.

“I knew immediately that this was not going to be good,” he said.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

Update: The Austin City Council approved ECHO's Action Plan to End Homelessness at its April 26 meeting.

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The original story follows.

The number of people in Austin who are homeless has increased by 5 percent since 2017, new figures show.

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) reports there are 2,147 people of all ages living on Austin's streets, up from 2,036 in 2017.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

An effort to reduce crowds loitering outside the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless has made downtown safer, local service providers say. 

Bit Boy/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Houston’s controversial ordinance banning public encampments has been in effect for three months. It came as the result of mounting complaints from residents regarding the amount of homeless camps on public property.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

Austin City Council is looking at using city-owned buildings as temporary homeless shelters.

The idea comes from Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, who says overcrowding at downtown shelters has led to harsh conditions for people experiencing homelessness.

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