AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler, calling on the city to backpedal on its homeless ordinance and quoting the city’s own police chief.
“After my prior letter, you publicly assured Austin Police Chief Manley that if the police needed anything, ‘just tell us what it is and we will do what we can to facilitate.’ Among other things, the Chief has suggested a reinstatement of the camping ban. I agree,” wrote Abbott in a letter obtained by KXAN.
In June, the Austin city council allowed people experiencing homelessness to camp, sit and panhandle in many public places. Opposition to the change has slowly built from specific Austin neighborhoods to statewide Republican leaders. Without a change from council, Abbott hinted that the state somehow would return the camping ban to Austin.
“Reinstating the camping ban is not a total solution, but it is an essential part of demonstrating consequential improvement in the Austin homelessness crisis and the danger it poses to public health and safety,” Abbott wrote. “Absent steps like reinstating the camping ban, the State will have no option but to use state agencies and resources to achieve a similar result.”
Abbott earlier this month threatened to respond with state agencies if the city council didn’t make substantial improvements to the homelessness issue by Nov. 1. The letter described that human feces, needles, garbage and people living in “unsanitary and inhumane conditions” could lead to an outbreak of communicable diseases like Hepatitis A and Thyphus.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler responded to the original letter, saying he welcomes the state becoming more involved in combatting homelessness. KXAN has reached out for a response on this second letter, where Abbott hints the state will reinstate camping ban, and has not yet heard back.
Critics point out that Abbott’s original – and now second – letter makes no reference of state resources being used to pay for new homeless housing. Homeless advocates and Austin City Council repealed the camping ban because ticketing people experiencing homelessness leads to warrants issued for unpaid tickets, which in turn makes it harder for people to find jobs and housing.
Last week, Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley suggested the council return to its former policy on the issue, which had greater restrictions on where people could sit, lie and camp.