No Sit No Lie

Rachel Zein

From Texas Standard:

Have you ever sat in a long line for a show opening or movie premiere? In several Texas cities, lying or sitting down in certain public spaces for an extended period is a punishable offense. Often, the fines associated with these ordinances push those without means into an even deeper cycle of poverty.

Members of Austin’s homeless community are using theater to give a firsthand account of how city codes like Austin’s “No Sit/No Lie” ordinance impact their lives.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

About two months ago, Miguel Alfonso moved to Texas from the East Coast and wound up in Austin. He was looking for work, and in the meantime was sleeping in his car, which he would park downtown. Then his car was towed. He couldn't afford to get it back from impound, so he began sleeping on the street at night, usually downtown, usually near 6th and Nueces.

Joy Diaz/KUT News

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice said criminalizing people who are homeless for sleeping in public places is unconstitutional. However, Austin’s had a “no sit/no lie” ordinance since the early ‘90s that bans homeless people from lying down on city sidewalks and sleeping in public.

While sleeping on public benches is legal, in the past few years the city’s cut back on the number of benches.

Governor's Office

No Vote on ‘No Sit, No Lie’

Austin’s Public Safety Commission decided to push back until August a decision on expanding the city’s “No Sit, No Lie” ordinance to the 12th Street and Chicon Street area.

The ordinance bans anyone from sitting or sleeping on streets near businesses, banks, and ATMs. Right now, it’s in effect downtown.

The Blackshear and Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association has been trying to bring the ordinance east of Interstate 35 in hopes of combating drug and prostitution problems.

But the Public Safety Commission isn’t convinced “No Sit, No Lie” is the best option.