Phase 3 of Austin’s homeless camping ban has begun: What that means

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sunday marks day one of phase three in Austin’s homeless camping ordinance, but questions surrounding what that will entail remains.

During the third phase, Austin police officers can issue citations to people experiencing homelessness who have already received a written warning for living in designated restricted areas.

The approval of Proposition B in May made it a criminal offense for anyone to camp in public areas, to sit or lie in downtown and near the UT campus and ask for money or other things during designated hours.

The first phase of the plan’s implementation started with Austin Police and other City of Austin departments visiting encampments to provide information about how the ordinance would impact those living there. The goal was to introduce the new rules and help connect people with resources.

Phase two of the plan, which started June 13, included the ability for Austin Police officers to issue written warnings to people for violating the ordinance.

With phase three continuing until Aug. 7, officers are able to make arrests for ordinance violations in situations where people experiencing homelessness refuse to leave an area that has been deemed dangerous. Examples given include if there’s a high risk of fire, flooding or near the scene of a crash.

On Aug. 8, any person who violates the camping ordinance could be taken into custody if an officer issues a citation and the person doesn’t voluntarily leave the area. During this phase of the plan, it won’t matter if the area the person is in has been deemed dangerous to health or safety.

Solutions

An Austin Police Department lieutenant mentioned a potential solution in last Tuesday’s Public Safety Commission Meeting, aimed at connecting people to services through a diversion program. Specific details have not yet been made available, however police told KXAN Friday that a press conference about the plan’s third phase is expected on Monday.

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, or ECHO, has it’s own diversion program, which kept three out of four participants housed, according to data the organization tracked.

What happens when someone is arrested for violating the ordinance?

Previous discussions about what will happen if someone is arrested have included that person being processed through the Downtown Austin Community Court when possible, which means the person will be able to see a judge quicker instead of being booked into jail and will have access to social service support.

It is unknown how many and if any citations have been given since the start of phase three of the camping ban or how many warnings to date have been issued.

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