Gov. Abbott defends connecting knifing to city homeless policies

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The political back-and-forth reignited over Austin’s homeless policies after the random attack in south Austin that led to two deaths and two injuries.

BACKGROUND: Congress Avenue stabbing

The City Austin returned the camping ban in late October to sidewalks, near businesses, and homes. That change seemed to settle the political fight until last week’s stabbing.

It began Friday when Governor Greg Abbott pointed to Austin’s rules on where homeless people can camp, sleep, and panhandle as a reason for the stabbing attack.

Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Delia Garza called it “scapegoating.” Mayor Steve Adler wants Abbott and the state to do more to help.

“To demonize that way, to make us scared of people, does a real disservice to the community,” Adler told KXAN.

KXAN asked Abbott if connecting the crime to policies was fair at a press conference update on the state’s domestic terrorism task force.

“What Austin has done over the past half-year is to perpetuate a sense of lawlessness in this city by the homeless,” Abbott responded, doubling down on his position.

Abbott said letting homeless people camp, sleep, and panhandle in public created an environment, making criminals that are homeless bolder.

He points to this latest killing, an assault on Congress Avenue bridge in October where the attacker was freed from jail early, and police stats in the Fall showing property and violent crimes involving homeless people up after council repealed the camping ban.

Abbott said it reflects “an attitude by the city of Austin that seems to be one where they care more about the homeless individual committing the crime as opposed to the victims of these crimes.”

President Donald Trump says the federal government will consider stepping in to address homelessness in some cities.

In a tweet, the President called the homeless situation in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities run by Democrats a state problem but he said the federal government would consider getting involved if the city or state took “responsibility” and asked for help.

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