Phase 1 of process, focusing on informing homeless individuals, will run through June 12
The City of Austin’s phased approach to implementing and enforcing the new ban on public camping is underway, with Austin Police (APD) and other City departments visiting encampments and providing information to people experiencing homelessness.
Since May 11, following voter approval of Proposition B, it has been a criminal offense (Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine) for anyone to camp in public areas, sit or lie down in the downtown or UT campus areas, or solicit money or other things of value at specific hours and locations.
Over the past two weeks, APD District Representatives have visited 42 sites across Austin to speak with and educate the homeless community about how the new rules may impact them. This 30-day outreach period, under Phase 1 of the four-part implementation plan, will continue through June 12. Similarly, Parks and Recreation Department staff will have visited over 50 priority encampments by the end of Phase 1.
“This is a huge endeavor and we are taking it step by step. Enforcement of Prop B continues to be a strategy focusing on compassion and empathy. Our goal is to carry out the needs of Austin residents and to work in partnership with all stakeholders to keep the community safe,” said Interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon.
The plan, developed through collaboration across departments, focuses on safely helping people experiencing homelessness comply with the new ordinances. The objective is to prioritize health and safety and to connect people to available resources and services.
“City employees from a number of departments are coordinating to make sure these ordinances are implemented as humanely as possible,” said Dianna Grey, Homeless Strategy Officer for the City of Austin. “Homelessness is an extremely complex issue with no simple solutions. City staff are working to identify additional options for emergency shelter or designated encampments and we will not lose sight of the need to create real solutions to help people get back into housing, with the services they need to stay there.”
When visiting a site or encampment, officers and staff have been talking to residents to explain how Prop B has changed City ordinances on camping. The conversations include how the new and existing ordinances will impact people experiencing homelessness, and what they can expect from the Austin Police Department.
Wherever possible, residents have been provided with information about alternative options such as storing personal items, available shelter, and other resources. APD has also created a resource guide to provide to unhoused community members.
During this period, a number of City departments – including Public Works, Austin Resource Recovery, Parks and Recreation, and Watershed Protection, have continued to conduct regularly scheduled cleanings at underpasses, parks and creeks. These ongoing efforts are separate from the new process of implementing the camping ban.
Phase 2 of the implementation process will take place from June 13 until July 10. During this time, APD will generally issue written warnings, and may issue citations for violating the camping ordinance if they encounter individuals who have already been warned.
During Phase 3, from July 11 to Aug. 7, APD will issue a citation if a written warning has already been issued. Arrests for violating the camping ordinance will only be utilized in situations where individuals refuse to vacate areas that have been deemed dangerous for the public (e.g. high risk of fire, flooding, or pedestrian/vehicle accidents).
Phase 4 will start August 8. From that date moving forward, an individual violating the camping ordinance may be taken into custody if an officer issues a citation and the individual does not voluntarily leave the area, regardless of whether that area is specifically deemed dangerous to health or safety. When APD does arrest an individual for violation of the camping ordinance, that person will be processed through the Downtown Austin Community Court whenever possible.
For more information go to: AustinTexas.Gov/PropB-Homeless