AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin said Monday it is clearing out homeless encampments around City Hall due to “upcoming construction.”
Since the city’s camping ban was put back into place by the passing of Proposition B in May, people moved their tents around City Hall in protest. The city says people camping around City Hall near the intersection of Guadalupe and Cesar Chavez were told about the construction “within the last 30 days” by members of the Homeless Outreach Street Team and Austin Police Department representatives.
The city also says those with tents on the north side of City Hall are trespassing and have to move immediately or face fines or being arrested. The second phase of Proposition B’s enforcement began Sunday.
“What would happen if you lost everything you had and the City of Austin said you can’t sleep in a tent? How would you feel?” questioned Antonio Jackson, who was removed from the tent he was living in outside City Hall.
Jackson has since relocated to the underpass on Ben White Blvd. and Manchaca Rd.
A City of Austin spokesperson confirmed seven people were arrested earlier today on charges such as interference with public duties and failure to obey a lawful order.
Downtown Austin Community Court is giving people access to storage bins, and the city says they are “actively pursuing options for increasing temporary shelter capacity and creating designed campsites in the near future.”
Austin City Council voted to use 58% of its money from the American Rescue Plan, around $84 million, for homelessness services over the next two years. In total, the council passed framework to spend more than $107 million to address homelessness before they went on summer break. The council is set to meet next July 29.
Save Austin Now, the group that organized to get Proposition B on the ballot in November, says the council isn’t acting fast enough.
Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar says council is working to expand shelters and housing for those experiencing homelessness.
Casar says one solution is opening up capacity at homeless shelters across the city.
“Our shelter capacity was cut in half by the pandemic because you couldn’t have as many people in one place. Now, as more people get vaccinated, we can expand some of our existing shelters, extend some of our protective lodges, open up more hotel space or achieve some of these outdoor spaces where people can pitch a tent,” Casar said.