Today I wanted to discuss Proposition B that’s on the ballot here in Austin for May 1, 2021. Prop B, prohibits sitting, lying, camping and limiting solicitation in public areas. Essentially this is dealing with the growing homeless population. And today I will discuss my thoughts about why we should all vote NO! — A "yes" vote supports making it a criminal offense (Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine) for anyone to sit, lie down, or camp in public areas and prohibiting solicitation of money or other things of value at specific hours and locations. — A "no" vote opposes making it a criminal offense for anyone to sit, lie down, or camp in public areas and prohibiting solicitation of money or other things of value at specific hours and locations.
And today I will discuss my thoughts about why we should all vote NO!
Save Austin Now or SAN is the group that was formed in 2019 to initiate this measure on the May 1st election ballot so camping by the homeless would become illegal again. Some of the biggest financial backers of this group is our “so called beloved and compassionate” Governor Abbot. He donated over $44 K of his campaign money to fund advertising for SAN. The Governor said “Vote Yes to ensure greater health & safety for everybody in the entire Austin area.”
SAN has No plan of action for the homeless. Nor do they plan to support any legislation to help setup housing for the homeless. The CDC itself has said “Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.” But the Governor has always lived in his own reality.
Whatever has been proposed is way too inadequate to resolve for all those that are camping. Austin has created some housing. Just recently $750K Subsidy to Build 76 Homes for Homeless Individuals. Called Community First! Village - it is a 51-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. It’s a start but nowhere near the size of what is needed to address the approximately 2500 homeless - which I find an extremely low number, especially during this pandemic.
Early last year ABC Austin reported a survey that indicated 43% of residents said they were displaced because their rent was rising above what their household could afford. With the housing market being so aggressive in Austin, many builders would rather deal with a fine than accommodate low income housing. Almost $10 million dollars in fees have been paid in the last 15 years from 54 projects. Mostly all within the downtown area. For example the developer of the Jenga building (The Independent) paid nearly $2,500,000 in fees not to provide affordable units. Because we all think 700 square feet is worth $530 K. I guess they will hire people of color to build the tower but please don’t consider living there.
Benton Graham of the Austin Chronicle interviewed - Reverend John Elford, senior pastor at University United Methodist Church and a Central Texas Interfaith leader. Reverend Elford said, "My biggest concern is that you're asking people to leave places, and you don't have a place for them to go. And you're putting them in harm's way, because they're going to end up just having to move from place to place."
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick stated last October that “Austin is one of the most dangerous cities in America.”
CBS Austin reviewed data from Austin Police and the FBI violent crime. APD said they compared data (crimes committed by and against people experiencing homelessness) from January-September of 2019 to the same timeframe in 2020.
“There really has not been any big change in either direction-- either a rise or a fall in those numbers,” said Joe Chacon of the Austin Police Department.
Once again the state’s leadership lives in its own reality.
No plan, No ideas, No common sense.
SO I voted NO to Prop B this past Tuesday.
And I encourage everyone to do the same.
For me, I saw no option. Prop B is an act of cowardice. It’s a behavior we all experience. We stop at a light and see a young woman or family holding a sign asking for help. We ignore it because we feel ashamed or maybe just helpless.
Prop B is that - shoving the problem away without really addressing the crisis.
WELL I am tired of just shoving it away. I want it in my face - in everyone’s face to remind us WE CAN DO BETTER!
In the last half of 2019 I was essentially homeless. I don’t like talking about it because its embarrassing. You feel like a failure - that you did something bad. When it fact, I know I didn’t do anything wrong. It was the circumstance at the time. Luckily, I was able to couch surf between family and friends - and I feel so lucky because I had people who wanted to help. But, not everyone has that blessing.
So whatever the issue a homeless person is dealing with - does it matter? Are we going to just drive by each day and ignore the fact we have human beings living this way? So if they need to just camp , protect themselves from the weather and have some sort of privacy - that should be illegal? What can we do to help get them back where they can be self sufficient? Is making their lives more difficult with fines and the inability to stay in one place the best way to resolve this “so called health and safety problem.”
Think about that when you vote tomorrow. Peace and Blessings…
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