Homeless situation in Austin and SAVE AUSTIN NOW GOP petition

Hi all!

It was suggested by a neighbor that I post this here as I posted it to our FORD street list serve. A couple of caveats- I am not a Red or Blue dude- Im probably a lot like most of you and just want to see people live up to their expectations and find happiness.

I was sharing to Ford street not to politicize this topic but in an effort to use a GOP platform to force CC to come up and think-tank proper solutions for homeless ness as opposed to BLACK/WHITE- Can live on street/cant live on public streets.

Two of my neighbors on Ford moved to Denver (Pre-covid) and sent me videos after posting this last night, and it was shocking. Another city that refuses to take on the plight because it seems “too hard”. Our elected officials are not supposed to be there to make promises, move money around and sell-out, they are downtown to work on ideas, meet people and determine best spends of money and then they should bring it to the people to vote. They have done this with traffic the last 6 years but they have yet to do this with anything civic or civil related.

Homelessness is a big issue- and I fully support REHAB FIRST. Supposedly the city has 2 large 110,000 sq ft facilities close to urban core that they could in fact make into a rehab center and counseling center. We obviously have the money if we choose to spend that money but again that is for the CC, Mayor and dedicated appointed people to help solve.

Please refrain from coming at me- I am simply sharing what was forwarded to me as I have been so deep in my own business operations and trying to survive that I have not had time to ponder and sit at home like many. Also not a plea for sympathy, its just facts. But, here I am, it came across my desk and its worth sharing. I will now copy/paste my original email to Ford street…

ENJOY!

I am not here to make any political statements. For the most part, I identify with Libertarian ideals but hard to peg me to that label as there is gray area always in our lives.

This was shared with me by a friend who lives on East side so its likely self-serving. I did the research and there are some arguments against and for- in both liberal and conservative opinion pieces.

I also received a note today from Jennifer Blackman (a philanthropist that lives over in Bouldin) and her husband (both liberals)… there is more to the story apparently. City of Austin is sitting on two huge properties that they could convert (if pushed) to homeless shelters that would focus on rehab, but they have chosen not to (probably budget). I only mention this b/c it appears this group is likely more conservative in its development.

at any rate- this is a petition and I thought long and hard about it but I decided to sign it. Its nothing more than a petition but if 20K signatures are gathered (they are now up to 19K), it will be put on the ballot in an effort to help solve the homeless issue that is swelling in Austin. It seems we actually have the resources but it seems CC does feel we are smart enough to make the decision on our own as voters.

Who knows how I will vote in the election if it comes to fruition but I am thinking its a good idea to have more of these topics on the voting ballot this fall so at least we can make that decision with our votes.

Do with it what you will- this is just me sharing it in case you have interest and may not have seen it. I Dont want to abandon them but living in San Fran in the 90’s, I know its a bad formula to blindly ignore them and make them fend on their own.

JP- if you would not mind- can you repost this to Friends of Zilker if its not already on there?

Cheers! AND VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

Nicholas M. Vaughan
razortiger@gmail.com

Begin forwarded message:

From: Jill Kerr <jillk37@gmail.com>

Subject: Save Austin Now

Date: July 1, 2020 at 10:22:58 AM CDT

To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Hi Austin Friends,

Spreading the word about Save Austin Now- an organization working to reinstate the ban on Homeless Camping in Austin. They need 20k signatures by July 18th, in order to get this issue on the November ballot for public vote.

I’ve seen the negative impact that the allowance of camping has had city wide, but it’s been particularly drastic on the east side. Cesar Chavez, Riverside and I-35 near 6th street are almost unrecognizable. I am very passionate about this cause, and sharing with you in case you feel the same way. Petition is attached- simply sign and mail to Save Austin Now 815A Brazos Street, Box 455 Austin, TX 78701.

If not, feel free to delete! :slight_smile:

Hope you all have a wonderful 4th!


Jill Kerr | JK

Fyi - this is the Austin Chronicle coverage of the Save Austin Petition:
Quote:
“Despite this evidence, some in Austin are clearly fearful of changes they perceive to be brought on by the new camping ordinances. Which means Save Austin Now will likely meet its signature goal to be on the Novem­ber ballot, ensuring the focus on homelessness will be on restrictions and punishments, and not solutions that help people get housed.”

Also, this is great Reddit thread on why this petition is a terrible idea:

Quote “The city council voted to decriminalize homelessness in response to a city audit that found that ordinances banning camping, sitting/lying, or panhandling actually made homelessness worse because it trapped people on the street (you violate the ordinances to survive -> you get arrested, or you get a ticket you can’t pay which becomes a warrant and then you get arrested -> you get a criminal record -> getting employment or housing just became even more difficult).”

Also, the primary force behind this Matt Mackowiak- he is a GOP operative based in Westlake. He recently wrote this about the BLM movement in Austin:

“Our city leaders, egged on by left wing groups like DSA and the Workers Defense Project, and cop-haters like Public Safety Commissioner Chris Harris, have been targeting our police, aiming to weaken them and raise suspicions about their activities.”

Personally, I would not support ANY effort from someone who views the much needed efforts of our City Council to address decades of police brutality and systemic racism in such a way… but maybe that’s just me!

yes, i have heard and read it all. I think my bigger picture is again… not siding on THIS side or THAT side…

I have a hard time believing the voting initiative will be that simplistic unless we allow that as citizens… and if they are and they think we are that short sighted, we should also vote on new CC members.

Their job is to PROVIDE SOLUTIONS and not politicize but we cant even get to that- if its not a ballot (we still have to vote you know) then we will never get a say… and if they bring bad solutions… it goes on record- “you brought a bad or no solution” and we can find people that want to solve the problem.

Right now- we are literally just ignoring the situation. Its like racism… you can choose to blindly ignore it and not participate in it but thats not how you solve the problem.

I signed it reluctantly but more because I want to see something done and I want to have options and I would like to use my tax appointed vote to do such. I am extremely tired of lobbyists (should not be needed in a well run machine), corporate influence and the total disregard of citizenry voting.

If voting becomes more popular… then voting reform will become more popular and then one day maybe we will have a TRUE VACATION DAY, where we sit at home and just vote from the safety and security of our home and listen all day to both sides and make real decisions.

THIS IS POSSIBLE.

To me, its not about GOP dude… this puts it on the ballot if petition is in fact, successful. I doubt law makers will put up a very black/white non-sensical solution BUT IF THEY DO, we can tell them that is unacceptable with our vote.

I hope I made myself clear- I am not defending this, supporting it but I do want to see more initiatives that are intelligible, clearly written and understandable on voting ballots. Like all of my favorites artists from the 90’s… ITS THE GAME WE SHOULD HATE, not the players. Players will always find the game but we need to change the rules of the game because its just not working anymore.

Sign or dont sign but I hope you all vote this Fall and help us CHANGE our course.

Not wanting to see homeless people under bridges is not a policy to addressing homelessness. Arresting them for being homeless just makes it harder to employ them (and allows you to legally discriminate in housing and jobs). And once they are out of jail, where do you think they go? Like, post-arrest they realize being homeless is bad and suddenly become wealthy enough to rent an apartment?

NONE of us should want to see homeless encampments, but the answer is not rolling down your window and screaming “STOP BEING POOR”. What most people who seem to loath homeless people really want is to not see homelessness but not actually do any structural work to address the causes of homelessness.

Like, if you make camping illegal, you don’t magically make people not homeless, you just force them to be homeless somewhere else that is likely more dangerous for them with less access to services.

That doesn’t even begin to deal with drug addiction, mental illness or the larger issue of felony charges allowing for legal discrimination in housing and jobs. We created a system where you arrest someone and put them in a cycle that makes recidivism and homelessness a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are absolutely homeless people who are dangerous and violent criminals and will likely never integrate in society in a meaningful way, but that is the exception and their victims are statistically most likely to be other homeless people. I am willing to listen to proposals to ban camping in Austin if and only if they include serious proposals to deal with homelessness. If the proposal only wants to further criminalize poverty without offering any solutions to structural reform it isn’t a policy, it’s just screaming that you don’t want to see homeless people, not that you care that they are homeless.

These types of petitions are the epitome of not understanding just how complicated a policy issue homelessness is. It is really easy to start a petition drive, its much harder to work towards solutions to the underlying problem. And oh by the way, bans on homeless camping were ruled unconstitutional last year and the supreme court refused to hear a case to overturn that this year, so this whole petition drive is asking for an illegal policy and is just grandstanding by conservatives. Its clear by who they support in office they dont actually care about income inequality they just dont want to see poor people.

Nick- I’m down with the outcomes you are talking about but this petition and this group is not the path to those outcomes.

Reference on Court case history: https://www.courthousenews.com/unconstitutional-ban-on-homeless-camping-wont-face-high-court/

1 Like

I broadly concur with Felicity here, but to address some specific points:

A couple of caveats- I am not a Red or Blue dude- Im probably a lot like most of you and just want to see people live up to their expectations and find happiness.

How exactly does “hiding” homeless people out of one’s view help anyone “find happiness”? No, out-of-sight-out-of-mind is not a valid basis for argument here – and yes, this is exactly what Republicans (at both the city & state level) nonetheless think qualifies as “policy.” It doesn’t. Our homeless population’s size has remained roughly the same over the past decade; the city council voting to not criminalize public camping only resulted in Austin’s existing homeless folks moving from out-of-sight locations into visible ones.

Our elected officials are not supposed to be there to make promises, move money around and sell-out, they are downtown to work on ideas, meet people and determine best spends of money and then they should bring it to the people to vote. They have done this with traffic the last 6 years but they have yet to do this with anything civic or civil related.

I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. While I have plenty of complaints about how our elected officials have acted since the 10-1 changeover (and before), they’ve done more things than I can count towards improving civic life, including multiple bond initiatives aimed at solving entrenched problems (including a $250 million affordable housing bond, hundreds of millions for improving streets, parks & hike/bike areas, etc.). They’ve also spent

Homelessness is a big issue- and I fully support REHAB FIRST. Supposedly the city has 2 large 110,000 sq ft facilities close to urban core that they could in fact make into a rehab center and counseling center. We obviously have the money if we choose to spend that money but again that is for the CC, Mayor and dedicated appointed people to help solve … City of Austin is sitting on two huge properties that they could convert (if pushed) to homeless shelters that would focus on rehab, but they have chosen not to (probably budget).

I fully support rehab as well, but I think it’s reasonable to ask for verification of this claim instead of relying on neighborhood gossip. (Btw I lived in Bouldin before moving to Zilker, and its NA is roughly as “liberal” as the ZNA: meaning not very – basically “faux progressive” – and mostly committed to maintaining the status quo.) Based on what’s been reported thus far, the city spent $8 million to acquire a run-down motel on the edge of town to convert into shelter use – and in doing so opted not to convert a more warehouse-like facility off of Ben White.

This was due to a combination of budgetary constraints along with the very time-consuming process of converting a warehouse-like structure into one with literal rooms, bathrooms, showers, etc. (Personally speaking, I think the Rodeway Inn purchase was ill-advised if only because it’s so ridiculously inadequate. Spending $8 million of scarce funds on a property with a mere 70 rooms – this when we routinely have over 2,500 people homeless at any given time.)

Further, the city has been trying for decades to close the downtown ARCH facility – which was far too inadequate to meet homeless needs even when Austin was half its current size – but has run into neighborhood-association obstructionism at every turn. (Traditional NAs, not FOZ: I’ll just hazard a guess that the ZNA would forcefully oppose a hypothetical site near us.)

Finally, I’m guessing you may not be aware of the longstanding problem with homeless shelters: they frequently end up becoming quasi-permanent homes, but without addressing any of the underlying problems for homelessness (other than the most literal version). Substance abuse and mental health problems top the list, and providing shelter to those in need of treatment – without treatment alongside – doesn’t really help the problem, and arguably worsens it via enabling self-harm (e.g. hardcore drug addicts having both time, and a location, to continue using).

A few more:

I only mention this b/c it appears this group is likely more conservative in its development.

Missed this one on first read, but you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree here! I have no clue where you got the impression FOZ is “conservative” – I’d say it’s considerably more progressive on civic matters (and in general) than the Zilker NA. It was created because traditional NAs (and obviously the ZNA in particular) have done such a piss-poor job addressing myriad neighborhood issues, especially any and all things relative to the exclusionary zoning policies the ZNA broadly supports.

Like all of my favorites artists from the 90’s… ITS THE GAME WE SHOULD HATE, not the players.

To be slightly nitpicky: the correct quote is “don’t hate the players; hate the game.”

Please refrain from coming at me- I am simply sharing what was forwarded to me as I have been so deep in my own business operations and trying to survive that I have not had time to ponder and sit at home like many.

What you’ve forwarded is essentially Republican propaganda rooted in half-truths as well as plainly false depictions of on-the-ground reality. I’m not quite clear how you have the time to write voluminous posts here but not reading about all sides of this particular argument, but I would respectfully suggest doing so in the future. (As for “coming at you”: seriously? You’re posting a contrarian view on a controversial topic on a public message board. You don’t have any right to “order” people not to clap back at you, particularly considering a lot of what you posted is essentially unsubstantiated gossip.)

at any rate- this is a petition and I thought long and hard about it but I decided to sign it. Its nothing more than a petition but if 20K signatures are gathered (they are now up to 19K)

To clarify: you’ve thought “long and hard” about signing a petition that will accomplish literally nothing other than maintaining various out-of-sight-out-of-mind fictions regarding homelessness, but you haven’t “had time to ponder and sit at home like many” every non-Republican perspective on the problem?

I hope I made myself clear- I am not defending this, supporting it but I do want to see more initiatives that are intelligible, clearly written and understandable on voting ballots.

Actually: 1) you are defending it; 2) this initiative is “intelligible” solely because it would solve almost literally nothing; and 3) the matter of “clearly written and understandable” ballot votes has absolutely nothing to do with solving Austin’s chronic homelessness issues.

I have a hard time believing the voting initiative will be that simplistic unless we allow that as citizens…

“We” allow it as citizens only because the city charter allows for pretty much any civic matter to be put on a ballot as long as its organizers collect at least 20,000 signatures. This is why we’ve had ridiculous bullshit like votes against the convention center expansion – 70% of the funding for which came from literal NIMBYs, namely residents of the extremely expensive Four Seasons Residences who apparently don’t wish to commingle with “plebeians” – on recent ballots.

In other words, it is that simplistic and will accomplish nothing. Meaning…

Right now- we are literally just ignoring the situation. Its like racism… you can choose to blindly ignore it and not participate in it but thats not how you solve the problem.

…you just literally described what this “solution” is doing: ignoring the situation by letting APD ticket people – ones with zero ability to pay said tickets, and via a policy with zero deterrent effects on homelessness – for the “crime” of having severe mental illness and/or substance abuse problems.

it will be put on the ballot in an effort to help solve the homeless issue that is swelling in Austin.

To quote directly from the email you forwarded: Save Austin Now is “an organization working to reinstate the ban on Homeless Camping in Austin.” I see zero rational basis for arguing that reinstating the camping ban will “help solve” a single damn thing (other than sheltering the delicate eyes of affluent commuters driving home from work from the “uncouth” sight of “filthy people” along the roads).

Once again: out of sight, out of mind is not a “solution.” Period.

That’s quite the response @jeffkirk - one small off topic point of clarification - while we host FoZ and I’m a board member at large, this discussion group is meant for the neighborhood at large regardless of your views. NIMBY’s and urbanists alike are welcome. Not to put labels on anyone - just saying more than anything a platform where discussions like this can happen in a civil way with all voices being heard is important.

Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to infer otherwise; I was merely pointing out that this list definitely isn’t “conservative”! (I know Austin’s core doesn’t really have many conservatives in general, but still.) Also, to be fair, the ZNA’s listserv has a fairly broad array of views too, including conservatives as well as progressives (actual ones, not just the “faux” variety), but definitely leans left on whole as well.

Since we already heard the GOP argument regarding the petition, here’s an opposing viewpoint from one of the heads of the Austin DSA: