AUSTIN (KXAN) — Law enforcement leaders are beginning to speak more about their dislike of Austin’s controversial city ordinance that allows homeless people to sit, sleep, and camp in many public areas.
In June, the Austin City Council stopped police from ticketing homeless people for camping in many areas. Council believed that unpaid tickets, lead to warrants for arrest and jail time, which in turn makes it harder for homeless people to apply for housing.
Over the summer, many businesses and community groups have erupted over the change; saying the more visible homeless community is a threat to public safety and health. City leaders say police should still enforce laws for public safety and health, however, this week police leaders became more vocal in their opposition to the ordinance.
Friday, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody posted a video on Twitter with a homeless man named “Tom.”
“This is Williamson County. Your decisions are affecting me and my family,” said Chody, upset that Tom was now able to camp publicly in his neighborhood.
“Mayor Adler you have to relook at this thing. This is ridiculous. I see it here today. I already see it downtown and over towards Ben White,” said Chody, “You have to take care of the residents that are already in your community as well.”
Mayor Adler did not take it as an afront to him.
“It seemed as if the Sheriff and Tom really hit it off. In fact, when the Sheriff stopped he said he was angry at him until he walked up and realized: he’s a real person,” said Adler
Adler tells KXAN he hopes this will inspire the Williamson County Sheriff Department to support Austin as they work towards a longterm solution.
“I don’t think the Sheriff wanted us to send Tom into the woods somewhere or send him someplace where people couldn’t see him anymore. This is his new friend Tom,” said Adler.
Chody’s comments come a day after Austin Police Chief Brian Manley announced he would prefer for the city to officially go back to its old policy of ticketing homeless people camping in public.
“Although I know it doesn’t meet the political will of our Mayor and Council right now. As the police chief, charged with maintaining public safety, I have suggested that we put the old ordinances back in place while we work through a final solution,” said Chief Manley.
City Council has not indicated any changes to the ordinance until more housing is available.