Mayor Adler addresses financial contributions to homelessness following City Council decision


Juan Diaz

Homeless encampments in Austin can be located in various areas downtown, especially near underpasses. The city’s homeless population also congregates on street corners and businesses.

The Austin City Council voted to restore parts of a ban on homeless encampments across town on Oct. 17. These new changes will ban encampments in high fire risk areas, within 15 feet of the door jambs of businesses during the hours of operation or residence at all times and around the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) shelter. The changes will go into effect on Oct. 28.

The vote came after Governor Greg Abbott spoke out against the previous changes made to the city charter in the summer. The previous changes had relaxed the city’s stance on homeless encampments. Mayor Steve Adler said he hopes the new changes will show the governor that Austin is willing to cooperate with the state to take care of its homeless population.

On Oct. 18, Mayor Adler held a press conference challenging Governor Abbott’s claim that “the City of Austin is dedicating more than $20,000 per homeless person in Austin,” claiming instead that the number is closer to $10,000.

Adler went on to back his claim through the use of a PolitiFact article he handed out to those at the press conference. The article indicates Governor Abbott’s statement came from dividing the total amount of money dedicated to combating homelessness in Austin by the number of homeless individuals living in Austin, without taking into account the number of Austinites who utilized those resources to stay off the streets.

Adler also compared the Annual Continuum of Care (CoC) Funding the largest cities in Texas have received in the last 10 years. The statistics show that out of the four largest cities in Texas (Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin), Austin has received the least amount of money, and since 2009, has decreased the number of people in the streets by 19%.

In an interview with reporters, Mayor Adler said that homelessness in Austin is “not a public safety risk,” but a “fear of a public safety risk.”

From 2018 to 2019, there has been an increase of seven cases of property or violent crime in which both suspect(s) and victim(s) were homeless. There has also been an increase of 12 cases in which the suspect was homeless and the victim was not. The highest number of cases involved a non-homeless suspect and a homeless victim, with 29 more cases this year.

Mayor Adler went on to question where the homeless population would go if Abbott removed people from homeless encampments, stating that if they were removed without any sort of housing in place for them, they would “end up in the woods.”

Adler said he would welcome Abbott’s assistance only if he had a plan to provide housing to the city’s homeless population who may no longer be allowed to seek shelter in encampments.