APD Asks Homeless Services to Move
Austin police chief Art Acevedo is calling for homeless services to relocate away from downtown after his department arrested a man yesterday who has been charged with fatally punching an Austin architect last month on 6th street.
Police say the man they arrested was panhandling, and even some homeless advocates agree there’s a problem downtown.
Austin’s Salvation Army mission is located on 8th street. Just a couple of blocks away is Caritas and the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. Those and other groups are where many homeless people go to find food, shelter and services. And that help all takes place near the 6th street entertainment district, where homeless and so-called “transient” people rub shoulders with music-loving locals, partying tourists, and college students..
“It’s human nature for people to be drawn to the entertainment district,” said Henry Gonzales, who runs the Salvation Army in Austin. “People want to go there and have a great time. Well, these individuals are also drawn to the entertainment district. Everything they’re looking for is there—drugs, sex, and other vices.”
Gonzales says tougher police enforcement is the answer, not moving the shelters. He says Austin is known as an “open door” place for homeless people. Unless that reputation changes, he says the hard luck people will keep coming. Carl Daywood, chair of the 6th Street Property Owners Association, says something needs to be done about panhandlers’ aggressive behavior.
“It’s worse today than it’s ever been,” Daywood said. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen in my whole life.”
In the 1980s, Daywood worked with Austin’s homeless commission. He says now Austin is becoming a magnet for people with problems.
“There is a circuit of communication between transients throughout the United States,” Daywood said. “Austin is considered an easy town to come to. You get all these free services. You can do what you want to do. It’s got great music. Like everybody comes to Austin, they like it. Great music, you can drink, they don’t harass you like they do in some of these other towns. And they’re so easy on them here they’re coming in from all over the place.”
Daywood says one way to stop that flow of people is for the police to be tougher on the people who live on Austin’s streets.