Prop B: As Austin heads to polls May 1, polarizing homeless camping ban takes center stage

Austin

The “Homes Not Handcuffs” rally held at UT Austin Saturday, May 1. The gathering aimed to urge residents to vote against Prop B, which would criminalize homeless camping (KXAN/Mariano Garza)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are eight measures on Saturday’s May 1 election ballot — but one proposition’s gotten the most of the attention this year.

It’s the controversial Prop B, which would reinstate Austin’s public camping ban: criminalizing and penalizing people for sitting or lying on public sidewalks and/or sleeping outdoors in and near downtown Austin and the University of Texas.

If approved, it would re-instate Austin’s ban on camping in undesignated areas. Friday, advocates both for and against the proposition decided to make their case for the future of the city.

Complaints from advocates against the ordinance include the fact that Prop B doesn’t include any help for those experiencing homelessness, like housing assistance and health services.

Prop B appeared on May 5 election ballots after the Save Austin Now group collected 20,000 signatures to bring the issue before voters. The group, now classified as a political action committee, attempted to do this back in 2020 — one year after Austin City Council voted to repeal the city’s ban on camping, sitting or lying in public spaces.

The current ordinance dictates Austin police can only arrest or ticket someone who’s soliciting, camping, sitting, or lying in a public area if they present a public health or safety hazard or are blocking a walkway.

‘Homes Not Handcuffs’

On Saturday morning, several local officials, advocates and University of Texas students met at UT Austin for a rally against Prop B. Called, “Homes Not Handcuffs,” the event featured appearances by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, City Council member Greg Casar, and others.

Online chatter

Prop B’s had Austinites fired up on social media for weeks.

Leaders

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has not minced words in his support for Prop B and against Austin’s current ordinances on camping.

On Saturday morning, Abbott tweeted a plea for residents to reinstate the ban.

Meanwhile, Mayor Adler has repeatedly urged residents against the proposition. In the hours leading up to polls opening, Adler tweeted: “Our choice is clear. We can either put our energy and resources behind housing those without homes (with needed services), or we can hide them from our view, warehoused in remote camps or returned to the woods and creeks that used to be their homes.”

Voting Saturday

Polls will be open until 7 p.m. Saturday evening.

You can get a complete breakdown of the other Austin propositions on the ballot, as well as information on other elections at KXAN’s Your Local Election Headquarters page.

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