AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott has yet again slammed the City of Austin on Twitter in connection with the city’s new policy that relaxes restrictions on the homeless, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler, in turn, called out Abbott’s tweet as an “incendiary lie.”
The ordinance that went into effect Monday allows homeless people to sit, lie or pitch tents in public spaces so long as they’re not a public hazard and are not blocking rights of way.
Where do homeless people sleep in Austin? The answer is not so obvious
Just after 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Abbott retweeted a former Republican staffer who claimed a two-car wreck had occurred at Seventh Street and Interstate 35 as a result of “homeless people darting into traffic” and that there were injuries.
In reaction to the ex-staffer’s tweet, Abbott wrote:
“Look at this insanity caused by Austin’s reckless homeless policy. All state-imposed solutions are on the table including eliminating local sovereign immunity for damages and injuries like this caused by a city’s homeless policy.”
Austin police told KXAN they did have reports of a crash at that intersection just before 7:30 p.m. Monday, but no one was hurt. Police say two cars were involved but they had no reports of homeless people being involved.
The wreck was captured on city surveillance cameras and KXAN is working to get access to the footage. Police say they reviewed the video and said, “there is no indication of anyone entering the roadway and causing the crash.” APD added Wednesday that one of the drivers ran a red light and people nearby came to render aid. That driver was cited.
Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Adler tweeted a reaction, referencing the new information from APD, and asked “Why retweet the incendiary lie that people experiencing homelessness caused a recent traffic accident? You blame what never happened on ‘reckless’ city policy. Really?”
KXAN has reached out to Gov. Abbott about his initial tweet but has not yet heard back.
This is the second time Abbott has taken to Twitter to voice his displeasure over the issue of Austin’s homelessness rules. Last week, he threatened to override the Austin ordinance during the next legislative session, but that won’t be until January 2021, barring a special session.
Background on the area of the crash
KXAN went under this same stretch of I-35 on Monday with Assistant Chief Justin Newsom of APD. Newsom explained that APD had not been enforcing the city’s old camping ordinances there “for some time.” With Newsom, KXAN spoke with several homeless individuals living there, and all had been camping there prior to the new policy and many were not even aware of the changes this policy would bring about.
Newsom told KXAN that some APD officers had shared anecdotes of homeless individuals camping on private property (something which is not allowed even under the new ordinance) since the council vote more than a week ago. But, other than that, he hasn’t seen any impacts on people’s behavior as a result of the ordinance.
Both Austin’s Ending Community Homelessness Coalition and Austin’s Resource Center for the Homeless told KXAN Monday that they have not seen people behaving any differently after the council vote on this new ordinance.