Consistent with overall Council direction, the City of Austin is committed to working with the community and our partners to further our shared goals of preventing and ending homelessness, providing temporary crisis care and moving people as quickly as possible from homeless to housed. Preventing and ending homelessness was identified as a top priority in Austin’s Strategic Direction 2023.

Our blueprint is the Council-adopted Austin’s Action Plan to End Homelessness, a single, community-wide plan which guides not just the City of Austin’s efforts to address homelessness, but also other community providers, partners, and stakeholders. The Plan identifies five key elements: outreach services and shelters; addressing disparities; providing housing and support services; strengthening our response system; and building community commitment from both the public and private sectors. The work is underway.

Summary of Changes to the Ordinances

On October 17, 2019, the City Council made several revisions to the city ordinance that prohibits camping in public areas.  Other ordinances, including those prohibiting obstruction on sidewalks in the downtown area and aggressive confrontation, remain unchanged.  The ordinance changes went into effect on October 28, 2019.

Updates to rules about camping, sitting, and lying:

Starting October 28, 2019, NO camping, sitting, or lying in these areas:

  • Within the following boundary around the ARCH and the Salvation Army Downtown Shelter:

a. East 4th (south border),

b. South Bound I-35 Frontage (east border),

c. East 11th (north border), and

d. Brazos (west border)

  • Within ¼ mile of any operating homeless shelter outside of the central business district. The prohibited areas will be marked with signs.
  • Within 15 feet of the door of any residence or business (during operating hours).
  • Sitting or lying is generally allowed in other public spaces, outside of these prohibited areas, if the person is not blocking the area or endangering public health or safety.

AND, NO camping allowed:

  • On any sidewalk in the City of Austin
  • On private property, including outdoor common areas, unless permitted by the owner
  • In public areas when it blocks public property or endangers public health or safety
  • In parks or greenbelts
  • In and around other public buildings with security rules
  • In high wildfire risk areas

Peaceful Panhandling Allowed

Peaceful panhandling that does not violate any other rules is still allowed in certain public areas like sidewalks. However, aggressive confrontation including threatening, violent, or lewd behavior is not allowed.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS TO REVISED ORDINANCES

The following questions and answers provide a general guide to understanding some of the changes and to understanding what has not changed:

How is the revised camping ordinance different from what we had before?

The revised ordinance, located in Section 9-4-11 of the City Code, is now entitled Camping and Obstruction in Certain Public Areas Prohibited.  The new ordinance has retained existing restrictions and added some new ones as well.

The newly revised ordinance continues to prohibit camping in public areas when camping unreasonably obstructs or blocks public property, or when the camping endangers public health or safety (including the health or safety of the person camping).  The new ordinance further provides that any camping on a sidewalk is prohibited.

The ordinance also prohibits camping in places that the City has designated as high wildfire risk areas.  More information about these areas can be found here:  http://www.austintexas.gov/department/wildfire-division

In addition, the new ordinance prohibits camping, sitting, or lying in three areas:

  1. Within a specified area around the ARCH and the Salvation Army Downtown Shelter.  The area is within East 4th (South), South Bound I-35 Frontage (East), East 11th (North), and Brazos (West).
  2. Within ¼ mile of any operating homeless shelter outside of the central business district.  The prohibited areas will be marked with signs.
  3. Within 15 feet of the door of any residence or business, during the business’ operating hours.

Private property owners may still prohibit camping, sitting, or lying down by persons on their private property, including outdoor common areas.  

Can people panhandle wherever they want?

The Council did not make any changes that affect panhandling. Panhandling on private property continues to be governed by state trespassing law.

In terms of public property, the solicitation ordinance was changed to prohibit aggressive confrontation. Under that ordinance, which has been in place since July 1, 2019, peaceful solicitation that does not violate any other laws applicable rules is generally allowed in certain public areas like sidewalks. However, the law prohibits any kind of aggressive confrontation, regardless of whether the person is soliciting.  State laws also continue to prohibit threatening, violent, or lewd behavior.

Can people now camp wherever they want?

No. Camping on private property is not affected by the city ordinance and continues to be governed by state trespassing law. Additionally, camping is not allowed on public grounds and greenbelts that are designated as parkland or City-owned, or in and around other public buildings governed by building security rules.

Camping on sidewalks and in high wildfire risk areas is prohibited, as is camping in any public area in a location or manner that is hazardous or is obstructing the area.  Camping, sitting, or lying down is also prohibited in defined areas around homeless shelters and within 15 feet of a door to a residence or business (during the business’ operating hours).

Can people now sit or sleep on sidewalks?

People cannot camp on sidewalks in the City.  If a person is within a prohibited area around a homeless shelter, or within 15 feet of the door of a residence or business (during the business’ operating hours), they are subject to citation. People also are prohibited from sitting or lying down on a sidewalk.

Otherwise, people who are downtown may sit or lie down in public areas as long they are not creating a public health hazard or unreasonably blocking or obstructing the area.

What should I do if I believe someone is a threat to public health and safety, including themselves or others?

If you believe the health and safety of any individual, including yourself, is at risk, please call 9-1-1.

For any non-emergency situations, please call 3-1-1.


LINKS TO ASSOCIATED RESOLUTIONS

Resolution No. 20071206-048

Resolution No. 20080410-047

Resolution No. 20100325-053

Resolution No. 20110113-040

Resolution No. 20120816-059

Resolution No. 20121108-048

Resolution No. 20140320-048

Resolution No. 20141002-043

Resolution No. 20141002-044

Resolution No. 20141211-111

Resolution No. 20160211-018

Resolution No. 20160512-018

Resolution No. 20161013-008

Resolution No. 20170126-043

Resolution No. 20170810-033

Resolution No. 20170831-054

Resolution No. 20170831-059

Resolution No. 20170831-103

Resolution No. 20170928-050

Resolution No. 20170928-052

Resolution No. 20171012-015

Resolution No. 20171109-049

Resolution No. 20171109-089

Resolution No. 20180426-030

Resolution No. 20180614-066

Resolution No. 20190131-078

Resolution No. 20190221-027

Resolution No. 20190411-026

Resolution No. 20190523-029

Resolution No. 20190606-049