Ideas for action on the City’s highest priority – Mayor Steve Adler

CONTINUING TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS IN AUSTIN

As Mayor and City Council members, we have been listening to the people of Austin, our city staff, and the many stakeholders who work with people experiencing homelessness in our community. We’re certain our colleagues join us in committing to a continued community conversation on homelessness leading to further Council action in September that would include, but not be limited to, the kinds of ideas described in this document. We post this onto the public Council Message Board because the entire Council joined in setting homelessness as our City’s highest priority and all of us will continue working together on this issue. This document is intended to present ideas for action and we welcome discussion on these and other ideas.

OUTLINE:

Let’s find a constructive way to move forward to end homelessness.

Mayor Adler, Council Member Tovo, Council Member Kitchen

PROPOSED PRINCIPLES AND GOALS

PROPOSED COMMUNITY AGREEMENT AND DIRECTION

To prevent camping, sitting, and lying in certain locations, we need to provide better and safer places for people experiencing homelessness to be. As we provide more housing (w/services), we can more effectively and ethically list more places for people to not camp, beyond the current restrictions. This is the agreement and promise we make with ourselves, the social compact we establish in our community. We should begin building that list now at the same time we are taking immediate steps to build housing capacity.

This past June, the City Council did three things: one, we removed some of the camping ban while leaving some restrictions in place; two, we asked the City Manager and the community to consider more carefully tailored restrictions than those that previously existed; and three, we took immediate steps to increase housing capacity.

By unanimously approving Resolution No. 184 last June, the City Council asked the City Manager to “propose reasonable time and place opportunities and limitations on camping, sitting and lying.”

Prohibiting camping, sitting, and lying, without providing people with a place to go, is a failed strategy.  Moving people experiencing homelessness away from one public place only moves them to another public place.  Ticketing or arresting people, or threatening to do so, merely for being homeless and having no good option for where else to go, is inhumane and counterproductive.   

Nor is camping a solution to homelessness.  We do not want any of our neighbors, especially our most vulnerable, to have to live with the public safety and health risks of life on the streets.

We can and must do better for those experiencing homelessness, for our public spaces, and for our community as a whole.

The “Action Plan to End Homelessness,” developed by housing providers with ECHO and endorsed by the City Council in 2018, identifies the models and programs that are working here locally that we must scale to city-wide levels if we want to end homelessness in our city. Over the last several years, the City Council has supported achieving effective zero veteran homelessness, the Homelessness Outreach Street Team, a redesign to a housing-focused model at the ARCH, and other initiatives, and has allocated more money to housing and social service providers working to end homelessness. The City’s new full-time Homeless Strategy Officer (an executive level position) will start the first week of September.  It is intended that also in September, the City Council will vote on action items related to homelessness as well as a city budget that includes multiple investments in housing and services.

We want community input. Ending homelessness in Austin will require partnerships among local governments, non-profit housing and service providers, faith communities, philanthropists, neighborhoods, and others. Austin is fortunate to have so many in the community who are doing great work to address and prevent homelessness, and they need our support and the resources to sustain and expand their operations.

None of us can do this alone; we must work together.  We can do it and we must.

OUR COMMUNITY NEEDS MULTIPLE HOUSING TYPES FOR INDIVIDUALS EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS

The types of housing we need to provide include but are not limited to the following.

We know what works

Austin has organizations and programs achieving great results. All of these initiatives and organizations, and others, could reach more people and achieve greater results with more resources and support to reach more people, establish additional locations, and provide more homes. Among our successes:

There are new programs, expansions and housing capacity on the horizon

There is new capacity about to open and more in the planning stages. These efforts need additional support. The following are some of the initiatives creating new housing capacity.

We should continue to learn from successful models in other cities and to pursue additional opportunities to house and serve individuals experiencing homelessness through options such as the following:

POSSIBLE PLACES FROM AMONG WHICH TO INCREASE RESTRICTIONS ON CAMPING, SITTING, AND LYING

As we provide more housing, we should now begin creating a list of public spaces where camping, sitting, and lying may possibly not be allowed now and in the future. These spaces could include the areas listed below. 

ORDINANCE STANDARDS, INTERPRETATIONS, APPLICATIONS

Better enforcement and clarification of the existing and future ordinances may be necessary to achieve appropriate enforcement.  The Council should consider better defining:

RULES REGARDING CAMPING WHERE IT OCCURS AS WE BUILD OUT MORE HOUSING AND SERVICES.

As we increase housing and services, we should consider rules for camping that could include limitations on size of tents/structures and the volume of belongings; providing tools (such as purple bags) for and required participation in ensuring cleanliness of grounds and avoidance of litter; appropriate places to provide showers and water, personal storage lockers; and processes to ensure people can keep their belongings secure.

RULES FOR PARKS

NON-POLICING TOOLS TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO GO TO BETTER AND SAFER PLACES

http://www.mayoradler.com/ideas-for-action-on-the-citys-highest-priority/