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.