AUSTIN (KXAN) - In the wake of the punch-and-run death of a prominent local architect on Sixth Street through the Labor Day holiday weekend, some Downtown Austin residents and the police chief are calling for a change of venue for the city's two largest homeless shelters.
"I've been more cautious than I've ever been before," said Downtown resident Amber Holmes. "I haven't been going anywhere by myself at night and its just kind of scary- the details were so vague that it just kept me and all of my neighbors wondering what's happening here."
Matt Casey died from injuries he suffered when he was punched in the head and fell to the concrete. Police arrested a suspect, Preston Sharpnack, 22, who they say is a well-known homeless panhandler. Witnesses said Sharpnack was aggressively panhandling Casey and his friends for some change when an altercation began.
In light of this crime and the high occurrence of crimes involving homeless and transient people Downtown, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo is calling for the city to move the two main homeless shelters out of Downtown.
"We've found people wanted for homicide, murder, sex offenders, we have found the entire gamut. The problem isn't a homeless problem the problem is a transient problem. A population that's very aggressive, very addicted, to alcohol and drugs, and really a bad influence, a bad mixture in the entertainment district," said Acevedo.
Holmes supports moving the shelters, as well, and said panhandlers have become more aggressive.
"You do have your occasional outburst and disturbances that make you want them to move the shelter sometimes but you know, it is what it is," said Holmes.
Laura Bradley is also a Downtown resident and said the homeless population doesn't bother her.
"I don't really feel pressured by a lot of people- I think if somebody's dangerous and you just happen to be around them that has more to do with it than just homeless people in general," said Bradley.
Acevedo argues that with the growing residential population Downtown and 38% of crimes involving homeless or transient people, it is time to do something.
"They have an expectation, if I'm going to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a condo I want to be able to go to that corner restaurant, to that cafe," said Acevedo.
Council members Kathie Tovo and Sheryl Cole are not in favor of moving the shelters.
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