Austin mayor, City Council members respond to governor’s threat of state intervention over homelessness crisis

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Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he sees Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s letter, threatening state intervention if the city fails to improve its homelessness situation by November, as a welcomed opportunity for a city-state partnership to address a problem that desperately needs attention.

In his Oct. 2 letter to Adler, Abbott said if Austin did not show “consequential improvement” in fixing its homelessness problem by Nov. 1, he would have “no choice other than to use the tools available to the State of Texas” to address concerns raised surrounding Austin’s “homelessness policies.” The letter comes as awareness continues to heighten around homelessness in Austin since the city in June decriminalized public camping, sitting and lying down—bans on which critics said unfairly targeted the homeless population.

“There are some people who read the letter as a threat,” Adler said at a news conference Oct. 2. “I understand the seriousness of this letter, but I choose to read this letter as an offer of assistance. Ending homelessness would be easier and would happen more rapidly if we have the state’s support.”

The mayor said he understood the “angst and concern” that precipitated the letter, but that Austin has done more than ever to address its homelessness problem. He said heightened visibility since City Council’s June decision is a positive for the progress of the problem, and putting the issue at center stage is an important step in conquering it. Adler said Austin did not effectively end veteran homelessness by hiding the veterans.

“We [ended veteran homelessness]by writing down their names and one person at a time figuring out that the person needed,” Adler said. “When Austin moves our most vulnerable Texans to where we can’t see them, I pray that we have helped move them into housing.”

District 4 Council Member Greg Casar was less accepting of Abbott’s letter. In a statement released Oct. 2, Casar criticized the governor for his own inaction.

“The governor is choosing not to help, and instead is threatening martial-law-style interventions, in a move right out of the Trump playbook,” Casar wrote. “Instead of threats, I hope the governor actually steps up and helps. Austin is done running away from homelessness. The state government could help, instead of continuing to fail us.”

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool sent out a tweet following the governor’s letter, criticizing Abbott.

“It’s indefensible to be throwing stones, Governor,” Pool wrote. “How about helping your constituents instead of taking potshots at us?”

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  1. I have spent many hours working with homeless people. Feeding them, listening to them, having empathy for them, and showing compassion by not judging their situation.

    LOL! Just kidding! I’m an Abbott and Trump supporter! I’ve never done anything for anybody but myself!

  2. Dear City Of Austin,
    When citizens walk out on a Sunday afternoon to go downtown and enjoy a day off in the City it is shocking to see what has befallen our state capital. I won’t write it down. But no one should be in a tent, between business fronts or having sex in the streets for money and this was in daylight hours. It’s a reflection on our great state of Texas that we haven’t earned but was besieged on us by political pandering. Since Austin City Mayor has been visiting and pandering to the Democratic Party Representatives such as Ilhan Omar, Hillary Clinton and her entourage and invite them to Austin it has gotten worse and worse. It isn’t a far fetch to say they are conniving behind our backs to turn Texas blue. It’s in several distinguished news papers and outlets that her several visits get more and more attention to this claim. Maybe we should be grateful because of their past questionable tactics and political history is why Austin got that attention. What ever HRC and Ilhan’s motives, the backlash is increased homelessness and derailing our City government in a “stand down mode” to strictly enforce the codes and compliance’s and Law. And the City if Austin is paying the price the likes of San Fransisco and Los Angelos.
    They’ve been warned. Our Gov. Abbott should wait no longer and clean it up. Before it gets out of hand and the disease starts to fester downtown Austin and other cities aforementioned by others complaining.
    It’s not about empathy. It’s about running a city or neglecting it because of political intrusions. We won’t stand for it.

    • PS: We don’t need the homeless cleaning up after themselves or policing themselves. There should not be a homeless encampment downtown or anywhere in state of Texas. I call on Governor Abbott to do a forensic audit on City of Austin and Mayors offices. Where is the money going that these people coming from CA and other states that they can’t find a home? Move them along to a Triple AAA camp and have city pay for it. Just get them a home or a place to be. God knows you’ve raised taxes do high good people are homeless and kicked out of their homes. Just to be taken over by city to rent them to illegal immigrants coming in as they get priority. Enough is enough. Clean it up or remove this Mayor from office. It’s time to intervene Gov Abbott.

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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