Austin Police Department clears tents around City Hall

Austin moved into its second phase of Proposition B ordinance enforcement June 13 and began working to move some campers around City Hall on June 14. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin moved into its second phase of Proposition B ordinance enforcement June 13 and began working to move some campers around City Hall on June 14. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin moved into its second phase of Proposition B ordinance enforcement June 13 and began working to move some campers around City Hall on June 14. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Members of the Austin Police Department and Homeless Outreach Street Team, or HOST, cleared individuals living in tents from the corner of West Cesar Chavez and Guadalupe Streets the morning of June 14. The city says the camp clearouts are due to an impending construction project in that area.

Additionally, APD cleared away those staying in tents on the north side of City Hall, where city spokesperson Andy Tate said campers have been "repeatedly warned" they were criminally trespassing and asked to move.

The clearances surrounding City Hall represent some of the most notable action taken at the city level since Proposition B's ordinances related to public camping, panhandling, and sitting or sleeping outdoors went into effect May 11.

The Austin Transportation Department had been planning to begin work on new safety improvements in front of City Hall "for several weeks" prior to the June 14 tent clearings, Tate said, and construction is now scheduled to begin by June 21. Tate said advance notice of the need for campers near Cesar Chavez and Guadalupe to relocate had been issued last week.

"HOST provided outreach each day last week Tuesday through Saturday with the message that the campers would need to move soon. They had also been encouraging the campers to leave since the beginning of this encampment," Tate said in an email.

The transportation department's scope of work at Cesar Chavez and Guadalupe will include updates to the intersection's northeast curb line and curb ramp and repairs to the adjacent east-west crosswalk as well as rebuilding the curb ramp at the southwest corner of Cesar Chavez and South First streets. Construction is set to be completed over the course of around one week.

Just over one month after Austin's Proposition B ordinances went into effect, police and city staff moved into the second phase of enforcing the proposition's ban on public camping June 13, which allows police to give written warnings to those in violation of the camping ban and issue citations to repeat offenders. The clearouts and arrests June 14 were not related to the implementation of the second phase, according to the city, because they related to a specific construction project.

"The city is actively pursuing options for increasing temporary shelter capacity and creating designated campsites in the near future. At the same time, we are focused on aggressive expansion of long-term stable housing for people experiencing homelessness through the initiatives like [Homeless Encampment Assistance Link], creation of new permanent supportive housing resources and partnerships with critical community organizations," the city said in a statement.

The city began addressing the new laws with a one-month "engagement and education" period that ran through June 12.

“Through this implementation process, APD has maintained a responsible and humane approach to providing education and outreach to those impacted by the ordinances,” interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said in a statement. “As we progress to the next phase, I want to reiterate that our goal is to enforce the law and maintain the best health and safety for everyone in Austin.”

The third phase of Proposition B enforcement will begin July 11 with continuing warnings, citations and possible arrests for campers in areas designated as dangerous. The fourth and final enforcement phase will kick off Aug. 8 when APD officers will begin arresting anyone violating the camping ban who does not willingly relocate.

This story has been updated to include information on the city construction project at Guadalupe and Cesar Chavez streets, and the advance notice that campers around City Hall had received about the project.
By Ben Thompson

Austin City Hall Reporter

Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. After spending more than two years covering in The Woodlands area, he moved to Austin in 2021 to cover City Hall and other news throughout the city.


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