Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demands Austin reinstate its ban on public camping

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

In a second letter in as many weeks to Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demanded Austin reinstate its ban on public camping as a means to address the city’s growing homelessness challenge.

Last week, in a letter to Adler, Abbott said Austin must show “consequential improvement” in addressing its homelessness situation by Nov. 1. Failure to do so, Abbott said, would result in state intervention. Although some City Council members criticized the governor, Adler said he welcomed a state partnership, as it would help in rapidly addressing the issue.

In his Oct. 10 letter, Abbott repeated his warnings to Adler about protecting the health and safety of Texans and again touched on the growth in human feces, hypodermic needles and garbage on Austin’s streets. Such claims without citation have been challenged by city leaders who blame hyperbole and social media for much of the bedlam surrounding Austin’s homelessness challenges.

Although last week’s letter failed to clarify what “consequential improvement” meant, Abbott’s latest letter provided more specificity. He said Austin’s decision to repeal its public camping bans on June 20 “demonstrably exacerbated” the severity of the city’s homelessness problem. Abbott demanded the reinstatement of the bans and doubled down on his Nov. 1 deadline.

"Reinstating the camping ban is not a total solution, but it is an essential part of demonstrating consequential improvement in the Austin homelessness crisis and the danger it poses to public health and safety,” Abbott wrote. “Absent steps like reinstating the camping ban, the State will have no option but to use state agencies and resources to achieve a similar result. I remain resolute in using state agencies to address this task if action is not taken by Nov. 1.”

Homelessness has remained at center stage in Austin for all of 2019. City Council has made it the top priority. However, since City Council's repeal of its bans on sitting, lying down and camping in public, the issue, and the city's response, has divided the community.

Adler’s office was not immediately able to provide a comment. This is a developing story.
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