AUSTIN (KXAN) — As thousands of people travel to our city for Austin City Limits Music Festival, a candidate for Austin City Council District 1, who has been one of the more vocal candidates about homelessness, said the city appears to be clearing out more homeless encampments ahead of the festival.
Clinton Rarey has been tracking and documenting homeless encampments and talking with people experiencing homelessness for the past few months, posting the results on Twitter as a part of his campaign. He said he’s seen an uptick in camps being cleared ahead of ACL.
“Why do they only do this when big events happen in Austin?” he posted on Twitter.
The City of Austin said that’s not true, saying in part: “Clean-up crews are consistently working at full capacity, and there is no significant increase in activity previous to special events, unless encampments directly block access to space or facilities to be utilized.”
Meanwhile, Antony Jackson, who runs an organization called We Can Now, which brings food and supplies to people experiencing homelessness, said he hasn’t necessarily seen a change over the past few weeks, but city sweeps have been happening regularly over the past couple of years.
“Since Prop B has passed, they’ve pretty much been sweeping on a consistent basis, and they have not stopped,” Jackson said.
Jackson, who has previously experienced homelessness, said those sweeps have put people experiencing homelessness on edge and pushed them farther into the woods — something Rarey said he’s also seen.
Rarey also said the encampments he’s been monitoring were ignored until just before the festival’s first weekend.
“With the Austin City Limits coming up, we’re seeing a huge ramp up in the city going through and cleaning up the encampments,” Rarey said. “And they’re giving these individuals a 24-hour notice to kind of leave the area, and then they come back through, and they just throw everything away.”
“The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department reports that there were no encampments of homeless individuals on the Zilker Metropolitan Park great lawn before ACL, and that there has been no increased effort to clean up in the surrounding parkland,” a city spokesperson countered.
Candidates for District 1 on homelessness
Incumbent Natasha Harper-Madison sits on the the city’s housing committee. She has hosted several town halls heading into the election on housing and affordability. In 2021, her district added more subsidized affordable housing units than any other district, she said earlier this year.
Misael D. Ramos and Melonie House-Dixon are also running for District 1 this November. According to Ramos’ campaign website, he is the board president for the Blackland Community Development Corporation and leads affordable housing efforts.
House-Dixon’s campaign website lists one of her core platforms as an effort to “partner with Local Non-Profits that serve the Homeless.”
You can find Rarey’s full platform on homelessness on his campaign website.