Downtown business owners get a chance to question Austin leaders on homeless rule change

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Downtown business owners will get a chance to question city leaders and the police chief Tuesday evening about the city’s loosened homeless laws that allow for sitting, lying or camping in public places without penalty.

The new rules were an effort by the city to decriminalize those who experience homelessness and have been in place for three weeks. But as tents continue to go up, some don’t like the changes and still have questions.

“It’s critically important that we get in front of this problem as a community,” said Bill Brice, Vice President of investor relations for the Downtown Austin Alliance said.

The nonprofit is behind the public safety forum Tuesday night at the Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Austin and hundreds are expected to attend.

Attendees will hear from both Austin Police Chief Brian Manley and the city’s Interim Homeless Strategy Officer Veronica Briseño. Downtown Austin Alliance leaders and members said they want to know how Austin is enforcing the new homeless laws and what the city has planned.

Mayor Steve Adler posted an op-ed Monday to say the city’s homelessness challenge is becoming more “chronic and visible.” He said in order to achieve “real results it will require difficult decisions.” The city will have to decide if it will spend the money necessary to house the homeless. Adler believes it won’t be easy “because of competing needs” and because there will be opposition to any housing location.

Brice said since the new rules went into effect, the group has fielded a bunch of calls from property and business owners who are confused and concerned.

“Our hoteliers are telling us that visitors are asking them, ‘What is going on in Austin? Is it safe?'” he said. “Community members, residents, business operators, property owners, and managers are asking us, ‘What are the laws?’ and so we thought it was important to have this forum.”

Tuesday evening’s public safety forum is at capacity and no additional RSVPs are being accepted. Downtown Austin Alliance representatives said an audio recording of the event will be available on the Downtown Austin Alliance website after the forum.

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