Group says it has the signatures to put homeless camping ban on November ballot

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group aiming to get a new homeless camping ban in Austin on the ballot is now one step closer.

Save Austin Now says it handed in a petition with 24,087 signatures on it to the City of Austin, and if the city clerk can validate at least 20,000 of them, a potential camping ban reinstatement could be voted on in November.

The Austin City Council voted June 19, 2019 to largely reverse the initial restrictions on camping, obstruction and panhandling in Austin. Proponents of that change say it has made it easier for homeless people to get the services they need to get back on their feet, and opponents — like Save Austin Now — says it has “been a disaster for our city.”

“The camping ordinance has harmed public safety, public health, tourism and the image of Austin, while making our homeless less safe,” co-founder Matt Mackowiak said. “We are not anti-homeless; we are anti-camping. We want the homeless safe in shelters, in transitional housing, or at the state campground where it is safer for them and where services are provided.”

“Voters will now be able to fix the mess created by Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Greg Casar,” he said.

Mackowiak is also the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party.

The petition will put the initial restrictions back in place — a ban on homeless camping citywide, reinstating the downtown area obstruction ordinance (formerly called sit-lie) and ban panhandling citywide from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

It would also extend the obstruction ordinance from downtown to the University of Texas at Austin campus and surrounding area.

“If the Travis County GOP Chair wants to spend a lot of money, time, and energy on a hurtful campaign that will do nothing to decrease our homeless population, that’s certainly his choice,” Casar said in February when the group began gathering signatures.

“But if Gov. Greg Abbott and the GOP Chair truly cared about public safety and public health in Austin, they would be working with the Austin City Council to provide housing and services to people experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, it seems clear that they are committed to making matters worse,” Casar said.

The group should know by mid-August if the proposal is on the ballot for the General Election in November.

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