Would Moving the Homeless Solve the Problem?
Austin’s downtown homeless population has come under scrutiny since Police Chief Art Acevedo called for homeless services to move out of downtown. The Police Department is not the only group focused on the homeless, but not everyone agrees what should be done.
Council member Sheryl Cole says moving the homeless out of downtown is not an answer. For people struggling with personal issues, moving them doesn’t solve their problems.
“I think it’s important that we focus on moving people to self-sufficiency and not just moving them geographically,” Cole said.
Cole says the emphasis needs to be on reducing the homeless population. And she says that’s not just a downtown problem.
“The thing to understand is that a lot of times the focus has been on the downtown facility, but this really is a citywide problem and it’s going to take a citywide approach,” she said.
Austin has well-known homeless camps in the Barton Creek Greenbelt and in Oak Hill, both outside the urban core. And smaller groups of homeless people live in parks and near creeks throughout Austin.
For business leaders, the problem is more cosmetic—homeless people can be bad for business. Charlie Betts of the Downtown Austin Alliance, a group of large property owners, says the Alliance is not pushing for the homeless to go. But he says downtown would be better off without them, and the presence of vital services keeps the homeless there.
“I think it’s the concentration of many of the social services that attract many of the homeless population, and it’s very central and very concentrated here,” Betts said.
City Council members are studying what other cities have done to solve their homeless problems. The city will host a public meeting Oct. 22 at the LBJ Library to hear ideas from officials from Miami.