Proposed position regarding Prop B

Would like to propose a position in Opposition to Prop B.

Attaching a letter from an organization I am involved with D5 for black lives along with a FAQ about prop B we put together.


Will you help oppose Proposition B on the May ballot? Prop B would make it a criminal offense (Class C Misdemeanor) to sit, lie down, or ask for help or money in many public spaces. These penalties come with hefty fines and provide no solutions to homelessness. No housing. No health care. No services. And, receiving a fine of up to $500 per citation often turns into a warrant for individuals who cannot afford to pay the fines, which turns into an arrest, which turns into a criminal record. Anti-homeless laws (such as Prob B) create cycles that ensure that people cannot get stable work, housing, or assistance, guaranteeing homelessness.

Austin can and should reduce homelessness. The evidence-based solution to this problem is permanent supportive housing, and this is one issue we have worked on with Councilmember Kitchen. Permanent supportive housing is especially important for people facing chronic homelessness, particularly our elderly homeless neighbors with health conditions. Research shows that investing in supportive permanent housing rather than temporary shelters both reduces homelessness AND saves taxpayer dollars.

One organization, ECHO, conducts Point-in-Time counts of people experiencing homelessness in Austin. They have found that, since 2011, the per capita percentage of the county population experiencing homelessness has remained constant at about 0.2% of the total population. Most often, people who are unhoused in Austin first experienced homelessness in Austin (63%), with a smaller group coming from other parts of Texas (19.4%). Some of the current factors driving homelessness are a lack of affordable housing, a lack of affordable health care, job loss due to the pandemic, and prior trauma. For example, in Austin, 72% of people experiencing homelessness report that their homelessness was caused by trauma or abuse.

Homelessness is a racial justice issue. Black people in Austin are 4.8 times more likely to be homeless than Austin’s white population. This results from past and present racism and discrimination in our housing, land development codes, health care, education, employment, and criminal justice systems. For more information and ways to get more actively involved, see: We hope that you will join us to oppose Prop B and work toward systemic solutions to end homelessness in Austin.

Thank you,

District 5 for Black Lives


This sounds reasonable to me.


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I’m doing volunteer work for Homes not Handcuffs right now, so no issue supporting them :stuck_out_tongue:


I respect your position Isaac, and I salute the compassion it stems from. However, I will be voting For Prop B. I will share my opinions and train of thought that brought me to this conclusion, but I’m not claiming to be an expert. Quite the opposite, like most Austinites, this matter got thrust into our lives by the City Council, and we’ve been forced to learn what we can. About the only positive thing that has occurred from their decision, imo, is that I’ve had to learn more about the topic. I used to think homelesses = mental health issues. It seems much more complicated and nuanced than that. However, based on what I’ve learned and seen with my eyes has brought me to the opposite conclusion.

  • I’ve learned that this issue is extremely complex and of national proportions . Yet those in power at City are holding us hostage for a solution? It sounds ironic that those in position to do something are the very people expecting ordinary citizens like me–struggling with kids, after school activities, mortgage, taxes, life, etc–to solve a national crisis.
  • It seems that once one is homeless, and the longer they are homeless, the odds are very high that they will remain so. It seems the best chance for success is preventing those on the brink and in danger of just becoming homeless. Neither of those realities are affected by a For or Against vote with this proposition.
  • The previous status quo is more or less what voting For means. Austin didn’t really criminalize homelessness before, but we need something on the books so that police can clean up the mess. Police didn’t issue $500 fines to homeless people who clearly aren’t going to pay, and it’s a bit of a red herring to assume that is the intent here. Maybe the proposition could have been worded better, but I have to decide with what is on the ballet today. I want my city back.
  • The numbers quoted before seem incomplete. (63% first experienced homelessness in Austin and 19% from other parts of Texas.) So that must mean 18% came from out of state? Then close to 40% are not originally from Austin? That number is then in the thousands, and corroborates what everyone knows–the word is out that we’re allowing this to occur and our homeless ranks are swelling as a result.
  • If you or I would urinate and defecate or have open fires on our public parks downtown, we would go to jail. Yet, we’ve given an invitation for thousands to do just this without any censure or punishment. It’s a public health crisis. It’s an environmental crisis for our green belt. It’s an embarrassment that we would allow the trashing of our public treasures that our hard earned tax dollars went to pay for. Children can’t use playscapes. The tower on the H&B trail downtown nearly burned down! Drugs are rampant only meters from city hall.
  • It’s clear the causes of homelessnes in America are extremely complex. From what I can tell it seems like mental health, drugs and lifestyle are common characteristics in varying proportions. Many are pure victims of mental health or abusive circumstances. It’s very sad. But we have to admit there’s a good amount of poor choices and lifestyle in there also. Repeated drug use that feeds back and eventually causes mental health is also there. Some don’t want to be helped. Some choose the lifestyle. Others are forced into it. In any of these cases, they shouldn’t be allowed to destroy public property and prevent others, especially those who are footing the bill, from enjoying our beautiful city. We were forced into a false choice.
  • How hard would it be for those in power in the city to set up FEMA-like camps on city land on the east side? You can safely house many, many more people this way than the current idea of blowing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars refurbishing old hotels that will only house dozens. If we took the amount of tax money it’s going to take to repair the damage already caused, we could set up hundreds, if not thousands of canvas tents that are incredibly sturdy, all located in a centralized area for sanitation and services. The appeal of living outdoors might actually be preferred by some who chose the vagabond lifestyle. Those truly trying to climb out of their situation would be more easily identified and assisted in a centralized location. Currently, they are scattered under bridges, overpasses, trails, and throughout our city parks. And you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think there’s violence. A centralized location would limit that as well.
  • The status quo isn’t working folks. We’re not helping the homeless, we’re just allowing them to ruin our city. One year in and we can’t point to any success. It’s hard enough paying the taxes that living in Austin requires. Now I have to see them wasted? I cannot say that when I go downtown, or drive on Riverside or pass by an underpass that I am proud of this city anymore. We are actively trashing it.

I would appreciate no ad hominen attacks should people want to respond and disagree. I don’t consider myself nor claim to be an expert on the topic, but sometimes a little practicality does go a long way. I don’t really see any progress made by the current status quo. But I do see dystopia everywhere I look, and it’s starting to affect the average citizen who has also had to bear the burden of COVID. The east and west coasts cracked their middle classes and that’s why they’re all moving here. Let’s not make the same mistakes the coasts did.


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I think you make great solid comments and have proposed ideas in a civil manner. Honestly, I agree with you.

I take it a step further though- bringing this issue to a vote was also a political divisive tool which to me was upsetting. I am just happy to see it on the ballot- I think its more important than the famous Uber vote they brought to the table 4-5 years ago but kept constituents from helping shape city policy and getting our feedback when it comes to homelessness.

Whichever way you vote- for or against B… at least its voteable now. This is so important- we are technologically advanced enough now that the voting population can inform itself and make reasonable decisions or at least have recorded opinion with a county clerk.

Thanks for bringing a counterpoint without resorting to personal attacks.

all of the discourse on this subject has been enjoyable to read from both sides and given me more to think about.

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I too would like to thank all for constructive comments. You’ve given me a lot to think about but more important than that the discourse gives me hope that both sides really want a solution to homelessness and if sensible dialog like this can occur into the governing bodies maybe some good ideas will become reality.

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I appreciate your thoughtful response and even agree with a lot of what you say, but did want to say a few things. I also by no means am going to sit here and say “The current situation is good” or “The city is doing the right thing”. I am only going to say Prop B takes a bad situation and on it’s best day leaves it the same, on it’s worst day makes it far worse. To me, voting no on prop B is not vindication for the city or the current situation.

  • Yes, the issue is complex, and not only of national proportions but it is also caused by political decisions made at the federal, state, and local levels (more on this coming). I understand the sentiment that I think you have which is “The issue is much larger than Austin, why does Austin have to pay the price when nobody else is?” And that is a hugely frustrating issue in ways you may not had even considered yet (but maybe you have).
  • Your second point about for/against not impacting how long somebody is homeless cuts both ways. My primary issue with Prop B is that it makes life worse for the homeless and literally makes 0 mention of a singular solution. It is a citizen initiated initiative and they could have made it say anything they wanted (within what is legal anyways), but they CHOSE not to. If prop B had instructed the city to designate campgrounds with facilities for bathroom/shower/storage I would be on board. I simply cannot get behind something whose only very narrow focus is to create a new criminal offense.
  • The 19% from “other parts of Texas”. Prepare to be infuriated, as I am, about some serious BS. Other parts of Texas include, the counties and cities directly surrounding Austin and very likely a majority of those are from those areas. The why they came goes way deeper than the ability too camp though. I know this is an issue in Dallas, and Houston as well for sure, but the surrounding Counties do not have shelters, public transit, public hospitals, and a lot of the other services that lower income people might need. This is a choice made by those counties and cities to ignore the poor till they go away. Those cities all benefit from their proximity to Austin (in regards to the jobs, services, and attractions provided) and do not contribute meaningfully to the Austin area. Then, they make their own locales inhospitable to the more “undesirable” residents and pawn them off on Austin. For every story about a homeless person coming to Austin cause they allow camping, I can probably find 10 stories of a low income, disabled, or struggling person (who wasn’t even homeless), or even a person of means who needed special ed services for their children which simply suck and are inadequate in most communities but larger cities offer them are forced to leave their home and move to Austin for a lack of services in their city which they would have preferred to stay in. We got here because at the state level, rural and “small government local control” thinkers said “screw the cities, I live in my cute town, quit telling me what to do and to waste my money on these dumb city problems we don’t have” and pawned all their problems on Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and El Paso, demonized them for being hellholes, stole their tax base money for schooling via Robin Hood, benefited from the GDP which is primarily generated in these areas, and then called us names. This pisses me off to no end and has way more to do with the Homeless coming to Austin than the camping ban. The people behind Prop B could have banded with people in the other major metro areas to push a voter initiative to force all communities in Texas to be accountable for their disenfranchised, but that is not what they CHOSE to do, the CHOSE to create criminal penalties levied against the poor. (Sorry about this super long rant)
  • You list the causes of homelessness that involve the choices homeless people make. You forgot to mention housing and cost of living increases that outpace typical working wages (especially if you want to live anywhere with above mentioned services). You forgot to mention the high costs of medical care, and how Texas’ choice to not expand medicare with already budgeted federal funds is likely pushing more people closer to homelessness. You forgot to mention the increasing average age of the population, the fact that a median 50+ year old doesn’t have much in the way of actual net worth, and social security is a fixed income in a world where actual cost of living is rising faster than the rate of growth of the fixed income. And finally, you forgot to mention that even if someone owns their home outright, in Texas they must continue to pay property taxes or lose the home until they die, which would take a hardworking responsible working class person who owns their home and quickly force them to sell it (even if they don’t want to) and be forced to pay ever increasing rents in order to stay near their communities. I am not saying every homeless person is a poor victim of a rigged system, Im just saying a lot of people didn’t make bad choices, they just got stuck in bad circumstances many of which are impacted by political choices. Prop B and the people behind it could have tried to address some of these, they CHOSE not to.
  • Finally “How hard would it be for those in power in the city to set up FEMA-like camps on city land on the east side?”, forgive the sarcastic answer, but its probably just about as easy as rewriting existing land code to be more coherent and allow for a bit more density. Maybe a little harder than putting a walmart in a neighborhood or building more section 8 housing. For all my complaining above about what the federal and state governments have and have not done, they are doing the will of the voters. The voters of this city LOVE LOVE LOVE scarecity, single family housing, “the free market”, an onerous permitting process that adds 40k to the value of every home in the city (just to get rid of a few more poor folk, this way they cant use the beautiful library we built for ourselves with the tax money). They can’t stomach for profit apartment complexes near public transit on major thoroughfares without parking spots; but you think setting up a camp within city limits anywhere with utilities and access to public transit will be easy? We the voters spoke and continue to speak on that all the time and the answer is a resounding “Sounds great, but not in my back yard”

So here we are as a society, in a problem of our own making, pissed off at the result of our choices, and thinking “If I just make it illegal to be poor in public, that will fix it” but I think to believe it will is magical thinking. On it’s best day it will push the homelessness out of sight. They will still do drugs, poop, and camp, itll just be in the woods, in alleys, in abandoned buildings and sites. It will take a fire by an overpass, and turn it into a fire in an abandoned building. It will take heroine needles by the city lake trail and make them be needles in the greenbelt trail. Itll probably “look better”, but it won’t actually be better.

I appreciate the thoughtful discourse here :slight_smile:

I’ve had many discussion on this issue and a common theme that comes up is you can’t displace the homeless (get them out of the sidewalk and underpass camps) without criminalizing it. As well as “the cops aren’t actually going to give them a ticket” mentality, they’re “just going to make them move along.”

I don’t think this is true. The police are going to police - it is what they are trained to do and rightfully so. Putting the homeless problem on them is both unfair to the police officers as it is destructive to the homeless population.

I also do not want tent cities in our public rights of way. I don’t want the homeless just swept back into the greenbelt either. What I want is a real solution which is something Prop B does not offer. It also ties the cities hands for taking more productive actions. The city is getting a good amount of federal funds to start putting real solutions in place. Passing Prop B now will just make what is already a cluster even worse.

Apologies for the slightly tardy reply. Tony, while I agree that you make some valid points – and both JP & Isaac addressed them well, so I won’t rehash theirs – I have to take issue with a few of them:

I’ve learned that this issue is extremely complex and of national proportions . Yet those in power at City are holding us hostage for a solution?

City Hall didn’t “create” our homeless problem, nor did decriminalizing it increase it to a significant degree (meaning beyond its already-sizable increase on a nationwide level, mainly due to the pandemic). The unhoused have always been there (at least for the past several decades); they were merely more hidden before. Prop B won’t change much, if anything, in that regard either way.

Further, how on earth are they “holding us hostage”? No one is expecting Austin – either its populace or City Hall – to “solve homelessness,” nor is it feasible to do so. The Council decided it’s morally wrong to criminalize homelessness. I agree 100%. (That said, I do agree that decriminalizing it absent a plan to truly help the unhoused, e.g. provide shelters as well as mental health/substance abuse treatment, was a significant misstep – but the fix for it isn’t simply recriminalizing camping.)

Children can’t use playscapes.

They were closed due to Covid, not rescinding the camping ban, and this was also the case nearly everywhere else in America (and elsewhere), back when it hadn’t yet been established that the odds of catching it from touching any given surface are extremely remote.

corroborates what everyone knows–the word is out that we’re allowing this to occur and our homeless ranks are swelling as a result.

I’m not sure why you believe “everyone knows,” but this is brazen propaganda being pushed by local Republicans and Prop B supporters, as is the false rumor that other cities are “buying bus tickets for the homeless & shipping them to Austin.” (Much like “voter fraud,” there are only a handful of documented instances of it – and yes, I do mean “handful” in the context of being able to count them with ten fingers or fewer.) These types of rumors date back to the old “Cadillac-driving welfare queen” stereotypes pushed by the GOP decades ago.

I used to think homelesses = mental health issues. It seems much more complicated and nuanced than that.

In terms of the chronically unhoused, it’s not that much more complicated: most have either significant mental health issues and/or substance-abuse problems. But yes, it’s certainly more nuanced than that, e.g. my example in the paragraph above, but – again – most of the people camping in public fall into the former group.

But we have to admit there’s a good amount of poor choices and lifestyle in there also.

Actually, we don’t. A primary root cause of homelessness is as simple as someone going deeply into unexpected debt as a result of severe health problems & massive medical bills (and in many cases being unable to work for an extended amount of time because of said health problems). This routinely happens to ordinary folks with middle-class jobs who have to place parents suffering from the likes of late-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s into full-time memory-care facilities: Medicare only covers X amount, and the remainder of these financial burdens end up on family members’ shoulders – driving many into either bankruptcy and/or homelessness.

This has zilch to do with “poor choices and lifestyle,” however. Speaking of which:

Repeated drug use that feeds back and eventually causes mental health is also there.

No one “wants” to be an addict, and addiction is an extremely complicated matter even if homelessness isn’t a factor. If anything, criminalizing addiction is nearly as cruel – and pointless – as criminalizing homelessness.

The appeal of living outdoors might actually be preferred by some who chose the vagabond lifestyle.

“Enjoying the vagabond lifestyle” is yet another false stereotype. Why on earth do you think anyone wants to live in such a fashion? (aside from maybe a minuscule handful)

Those truly trying to climb out of their situation would be more easily identified and assisted in a centralized location.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever visited downtown Austin, but ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless) has been in one of the most central locations in town for nearly 25 years now (7th & Neches), and serves as exactly that: a centralized location for helping the unhoused.

How hard would it be for those in power in the city to set up FEMA-like camps on city land on the east side?

This is – to be blunt – appalling, and it’s the type of NIMBY crap I’d expect from ZNA members, not this group. The city of Austin effectively ghettoized East Austin 90+ years ago with its infamous 1928 Plan – which included a designated “Negro District,” to which Black Austinites living in other parts of town were forced into after the city began cutting off utilities & other services to the various communities of color that existed at the time (e.g. Zilker itself, which early in Austin’s history had a freedmen’s community living in it, but the largest was in Clarksville) – then doubled down on the ghettoization with the construction of an elevated freeway in the early '60s that’s served as both a literal and metaphorical dividing line between haves and have-nots ever since, or at least until the east side started being gentrified roughly 20 years ago.

So: on top of East Austin’s Black & Hispanic communities facing rapid displacement from their longtime homes, you seriously think they should bear the entire burden of a “FEMA-like camp” as well? (Btw I take it as a given you’re unaware that they already have one such community on the east side, albeit consisting of tiny homes as opposed to “FEMA-like” dwellings.) While we obviously have no large parcels of land in or near Central Austin that would work for such purposes, we still have a fair amount of vacant land citywide – including thousands of acres the city already owns (on the south, north & west sides as well).

All that said, I do agree with you on two points:

[B]lowing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars refurbishing old hotels that will only house dozens.

While well-intentioned, this idea of buying up old hotels (though to be clear they’re not really “refurbished”) & repurposing them as homeless housing won’t come remotely close to meeting actual needs. We could house a tiny fraction of the city’s unhoused population this way, plus merely providing shelter does nothing to address the underlying issues behind homelessness (namely the need for addiction / mental health treatment).

One year in and we can’t point to any success.

Agreed – but, once more, recriminalizing homelessness isn’t any real “fix,” and will accomplish little more than forcing the unhoused to move into more out-of-sight areas, where they lived before the camping ban was rescinded. They’re here & not leaving. We need to accept this reality & devise means of actually helping them – which will require far more comprehensive plans than anything Adler & the Council have yet devised.

“Out of sight, out of mind” might less offend your visual sensibilities, but it’s in no way, shape or form a bona fide solution.

Jeff, be careful in things you assume. The world is complex and doesn’t need to conform to your preconceptions. Some comments and I’ll drop the subject as I don’t want to offend anyone:

  • With all due respect, despite every well-meaning comment said supporting the position against Prop B, NOBODY, including you, have provided a solution. Hence we ARE held hostage to the current situation.

  • Your comment “Why on earth do you think anyone wants to live in such a fashion?” is very telling. It seems you are interjecting your own preconceptions of the world on the situation. My comments aren’t NIMBY. They are practical. It is a fact that many homeless people do not like being in the housing they are given and choose to live outside. Maybe not something you would do, but don’t presuppose there aren’t a lot of folks who do make this choice irrespective of their mental health. (You can’t make someone live in a shelter because you think they are incapable of making the right choice…unless you lock them up in a mental facility.) From what I’ve read it is a big challenge of fighting homelessness.

  • You seemed appalled by my FEMA-like camp description, but it stems from a practical solution so try for a moment to be open and not interject preconceived ideas. I was in the military once, and I wanted to say ‘military-like’ camps, but I figured you would be even more appalled. Yet, there are ways of organizing community shelters most efficiently and expeditiously–and organizations like FEMA or the military do this all the time. You get the most bang for the buck. So for those that truly need shelter, subsistence and sanitation, this is a very, very viable solution. I’m trying to offer solutions. The fact that I said ‘east-side’ is also practical. It’s the closest to downtown where there is still land that is not impossibly unaffordable and not already developed. Let’s not play to stereotypes, but look for solutions. If there is such land north, south or west, great. These posts are already too long so I can’t defend every sentence I write from a nuanced association with something else. Let’s focus on solutions.

  • You must not have small children because playscapes are open and have been so for some time. I’ve met people coming into my neighborhood to use ours because they didn’t feel comfortable using theirs as they were overrun with homeless people. (A personal experience, but admittedly not sure how indicative it is of the whole.)

  • I would not place ‘a primary root cause of homelessness’ on medical bills. It is not what I’ve read, and little research has actually been done on the topic. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but this is not the place to delve into that topic. (Recent research has shown that it is highly correlated to homelessness and does affect the amount of time someone stays homeless, but it is not causal. ) But I agree it is all part of the dilemma and needs to be addressed. But whether we need to hold our public spaces hostage until this is all fixed is what I’m trying to address here.

  • A comment and request in general on responses in this forum: when one says things like my thinking is “appalling” it is telling. It is a subtle ad hominem attack, implying I must be a cruel person to even suggest something like this. It is not conducive to good discourse, and honestly, the reason many people like me don’t usually respond on list-serves. Also, as a practical matter, avoid lumping people into categories as much as possible. The world is complex, we should appreciate it in its complexity. References below to political parties, other list-serves, suburban vs urban, etc don’t help. It is easy to lump people into crude categories. When we do this we miss out on all the nuances that reality has to offer.

I’ll close with this helpful tip that I started doing. I often got exasperated when someone couldn’t see my point of view or I felt theirs was incomprehensible. I realized that to try to be independent as possible a good trick was to place yourself in someone else’s shoes and truly try to argue a position from their point of view. (Like, own it from the other side.) It’s impossible to do this completely and honestly, as who we are and what we think is based on our experiences. But it certainly does go a long way to adding the nuance back into our perceptions.