Save Austin Now, business owners say Austin is failing to enforce camping ban in new lawsuit

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group that pushed voters to reinstate Austin’s camping ban earlier this year is now suing the city of Austin, saying it is failing to enforce the ban.

Proposition B, or the city’s camping ban, was approved by voters May 1. Enforcement of the ban was rolled out by the city in four phases, with the last phase being implemented earlier this month.

While the earlier phases focused on connecting the unhoused population with resources, putting them in temporary housing shelters and giving out warnings, Phase 4 is when the majority of arrests and citations should be taking place.

Now, Save Austin Now, along with four small business owners, say they have filed a lawsuit in Travis County District Court, accusing the city of not enforcing the ban and respecting the will of voters.

“Austin business owners, families, children, commuters, and visitors remain threatened by this failed policy,” said Save Austin Now cofounder Matt Mackowiak, in part. “Unregulated public camping has been illegal in Austin since Prop B passed. It is time for the City of Austin to respect the will of the voters and put public safety first.”

The four business owners who signed on to the lawsuit are listed below and say their employees and customers have been continually affected by the homeless population and the city’s lack of help on the matter.

  • Laura North, owner of Headspace Salon and Co-op in south Austin
  • Stuart Dupuy, owner of Balance Dance Studios in south Austin
  • Robert Mayfield, owner of Dairy Queen franchises on Lamar Boulevard in north Austin and on Manor Road in northeast Austin
  • Bob Woody, owner of Buckshot Bar on East 6th Street downtown

“What took place after the [previous] camping ban was lifted was wildly dangerous, irresponsible, and reckless on City Council’s part,” said North in a press release. “They did nothing to protect the welfare and safety of the small businesses, children, homes, or people experiencing homelessness in the areas they allowed large encampments to form.”

The plaintiffs say the city’s efforts to create a regulated camping site and its HEAL initiative are not enough.

Austin City Council member Greg Casar rebutted in a statement, saying the city partnered with nonprofit Caritas of Austin to break ground on a facility to house about 170 people, and people have already been moved into transitional housing at the Northbridge and Southbridge shelters as part of the city’s hotel strategy.

The city also approved earlier this month to buy another hotel in northwest Austin expected to have 80 rooms to house the homeless.

KXAN reached out to the city of Austin for comment. A spokesperson replied, saying they are entirely rejecting the premise of the lawsuit.

“Since May, APD officers have visited hundreds of people experiencing homelessness at encampments and other areas across Austin, connecting many with social support services. During that time officers have issued hundreds of written warnings and multiple citations,” the city of Austin spokesperson said.

In mid-June, the Austin Police Department said it issued 390 warnings during the first phase of camping ban enforcement. The city says it will continue to work with the Austin Police Department and homeless outreach partners and take a “humane approach” to enforcing the ban.

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