Austin City Council could take summer break without plan for sanctioned homeless camps

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council met three times this week – Monday for a special-called meeting with Travis County commissioners; Tuesday for a work session; Thursday for a regularly-scheduled meeting – but will likely leave for a six-week summer break without a plan for sanctioned homeless campsites.

Mayor Steve Adler said Monday council members had “danced around” the discussion about designated campsites in response to the implementation of the camping ban. But by Thursday, with members set to take their annual summer vacation, there was still no path forward.

“As to the optics, that’s clearly pretty bad,” said Daryl Slusher, a former council member and the publisher of the Austin Independent. “I guess they’re trying to be as humane as possible, but it’s just not moving anything.”

Phase 2 of the city’s implementation of the camping ban takes effect Sunday. Police will begin writing citations for those who have already been warned about the ban on camping in public.

Save Austin Now, the organization behind Proposition B, said Thursday council members aren’t responding quickly enough to the will of voters.

“I don’t see how the city council can look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘we’re doing right for our citizens,’” said Cleo Patricek, co-founder of Save Austin Now.

It’s been six weeks since a majority of Austinites voted in favor of reinstating the camping ban. It’s unclear how much longer it will take for city council to figure out how to deal with the consequences.

“It has eerie echoes of two years ago when they repealed the camping ban and went on a long break,” Slusher said. “I’m worried they’re leaving it all for the city manager right now.”

The council must also decide how to spend $143.6 million in federal pandemic relief dollars. City staff has recommended city council direct 58% of those funds – nearly $84 million – to homelessness services over the next two years. However, that is far from a certain number going into the day of the meeting.

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