AUSTIN (KXAN) – Homeless people in the city of Austin face a deadline Sunday – but many say they don’t know where to go. Austin police officers will begin distributing citations for campsites in public places as the city’s next phase of enforcement of the public camp ban begins this weekend.
Crystal Davis, who has been homeless for about 10 years, says she and her South Austin community are concerned about the change.
“I just want to cry because this is my home,” Davis said. “We are told that if you do not leave, you will be arrested, if you do not leave, you will be imprisoned. It is not good.”
Tents still line the streets and areas under bridges in Austin. Salvation Army told KXAN that most of the shelters are almost full.
Here were the latest figures from them in terms of reception capacity.
- Austin shelters for women and children:There are 81 beds for 23 families and six single women.It’s 100% full.
- Center for social services in the inner city:There are currently 100 beds for 50 men and 50 women.It’s 100% full.Salvation Army is expected to increase the capacity of this center 130-150 in August if there is no new outbreak of COVID-19.
- Rathgeber Sant:There are now 138 beds for 41 families with children.Not yet 100% full and there is room for four extra families.Salvation Army is expected to move up to 212 beds (full capacity) next fall.
Trying to find solutions
“You can fine them as much as you want, they don’t have money to pay for it,” said David Riordan, who was homeless at one point in his life and now supports homeless people. “Police are striving to reduce harm to the homeless and commission damage reduction, but we need answers and we need them quickly.”
Riordan is an advocate of proposal B, taking people to the streets, but saying the city is getting ahead of things. He says people can’t get out on the street if they have nowhere to go.
“They moved to a patch in the woods hoping it’s out of sight,” Riordan said.
Riordan thinks the answer is that ordinary people connect with the homeless.
“Maybe we have a government measure we can take,” he said. “Maybe we’ll open some more camps, but if we’ll eventually get a response to homelessness, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Riordan recently took people into his own home so they won’t be cited under the new camp ban rules.
He has also partnered with an organization that has spent the past few weeks trying to educate people about the next stage of Prop and B deadlines.
“The last three weeks have been traumatic for the homeless,” Riordan said. “They know that Prop B has passed, and they know that their time of some stability is fading.”
People in South Austin homeless camps say they were trying to get on the streets, but they had no chance. Davis says he is in contact with several outreach organizations and is still waiting for a response.
“There are so many ways to sign up – that’s just the waiting list,” he said.
The Austin Police Department has already said that in many cases, an arrest will not lead to jail time, but it will give them more teeth to provide resources. The department told us they have set up a rehabilitation program with an emphasis on connecting people to their services.