Speakers call for more victim services at first Austin City Council budget hearing

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council faced community members Thursday for the first time since before the pandemic.

The body met in person for a hearing on the city’s proposed 2021-22 budget. A combination of virtual and in-person speakers addressed council members, many of whom said Austin’s attempts at reimagining public safety don’t go far enough.

“The city does not nearly have enough services for people experiencing violence,” one speaker told elected officials.

Earlier this year, Austin’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force presented a series of recommendations — from expanding victim services to decoupling Austin Police from traffic stop enforcement. The entire report is more than 70 pages long.

But few of the recommendations were proposed for the 2021-22 budget. A City of Austin spokesperson said staff has been in the process of analyzing the recommendations “to determine feasibility, fiscal impact, and any potential policy or ordinance changes that may be required.”  

What City Manager Spencer Cronk did include in the proposed budget was $1.9 million to cover some of the recommendations. They include:

  • Expanding the current community health worker career ladder initiative and finalizing infrastructure development of the community health worker program ($500,000)
  • Funding for the Office of Violence Prevention, developing a Community Safety Grant Program to provide funding for community-led prevention and intervention efforts ($825,000)
  • Funding for specialized therapeutic and trauma healing training for victims’ services counselors who work with violence survivors ($250,000)
  • Multilingual public education campaign to raise awareness regarding appropriate emergency service use ($105,000)
  • Funding for an Equity Office-led study of a guaranteed income project ($250,000)

One task force recommendation not included in the proposed budget was funding for a Trauma Recovery Center. That’s why advocate Terra Tucker went to city hall to urge council members to find the funding.

Tucker, who is Texas State Director for the Alliance for Safety and Justice, says she’s crossed paths with a lot of trauma survivors over the years.

“What I’ve learned is that many of them don’t get the services they need, and what they really want is a way to access these services,” she said.

There are 34 Trauma Recovery Centers in the United States, providing free therapy and case management for victims of crime, with no police report needed.

“For lots of reasons people don’t report,” said Tucker. “They either feel police have let them down or they don’t know they can prove what’s happened to them.”

As for a Trauma Recovery Center, a City of Austin spokesperson told us analysis of that recommendation is still in progress.

Austin City Council will have opportunities to make changes to the proposed budget. Thursday was the first of three public hearings for the community to weigh in.

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