Austinites stand up for each other, especially in the toughest of times. And right now, we find ourselves in the toughest of times. People are losing their jobs, struggling to pay for rent and other necessities, and small businesses are closing every day. And yet even as it feels like we live in an unrecognizable world, we’ve also shown the best of ourselves. People are donating food and money to food banks, wearing masks in public to prevent others from contracting COVID-19, booking motel rooms to house those who do not have a home, and contributing to disaster relief funds.
And yet amidst all of this, there is a small group of people that want to push our most vulnerable neighbors further into the shadows. As the dual disasters of the pandemic and the harsh weather highlighted the inequities in our community, some want to ignore these issues by criminalizing people experiencing homelessness and pushing them further into the shadows. A small coalition wants to give police the green light to put those experiencing homelessness in jail. Rather than finding people homes, they want to put them in handcuffs and lock them up, away from services, and for many, necessary treatment and medication.
Early Voting: April 19-27, 2021
Election Day: May 1, 2021
Please Vote NO (or AGAINST) Prop B
Our unhoused neighbors need housing, food & services, not tickets they can't afford.
Help us fight the criminalization of poverty.
- There are many reasons people find themselves without housing. In Austin, the cost of living has skyrocketed. According to Austin ECHO, you would have to work 109 hours a week at minimum wage to afford a one bedroom house here.
- Roughly a quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in Texas are employed, but unable to afford shelter.
- Laws that make it a crime for the homeless to engage in life-sustaining activities are cruel. Many of these laws — laws that a small coalition wants to reinstate — punish people for sitting and sleeping outside or asking for help. They punish people, in other words, for trying to survive.
- These laws also make the underlying problems that cause homelessness worse. People rack up fines and fees that they cannot pay. They are saddled with criminal records, making it more difficult to get housing and employment. When individuals are jailed, they often lose access to public benefits and shelter space. For those with medical or treatment needs, continuity of care is disrupted. Any possessions these individuals have managed to obtain are lost forever. All of these effects perpetuate the cycle of homelessness.
- And criminalizing homelessness costs cities and states millions of dollars on police, jails and courts. That money could be better invested in interventions to prevent homelessness or assist those experiencing it to find shelter, an income, and necessary community services. If we want to end homelessness, that’s where we must put our money.
For background reading on the fight to protect our most vulnerable:
- Abbott vs. Adler: The Fight for Austin’s Future, David Leffler, Texas Monthly
- Street Fight, Inside Austin’s Bitter Brawl Over Homelessness, Christopher Hooks, Texas Monthly
- Gov. Abbott vs. Austin’s Homeless, Gus Bova, Texas Observer
For background reading on why criminalizing homelessness is cruel and ineffective:
- Criminalizing Homelessness Doesn’t Work, Joseph Mead an Sarah Rankin, CityLab
- No Safe Place: Criminalizing of Homelessness in in U.S. Cities, A Report by the National Law Center On Homelessness & Policy
- Criminalizing Homelessness Violates Basic Human Rights, John Raphling, The Nation
For background reading on how places have helped the homeless:
- What SF Can Learn from Salt Lake City, Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle
- Proven Solutions, We Can End the Homelessness Crisis, Coalition for the Homeless
- Homelessness is Not Inevitable and Can Be Solved, John Henley, The Guardian
- Austin’s COVID-19 response for those experiencing homelessness
- Austin, Travis County awarded more than $10M in grants to fight homelessness, Drew Knight, KVUE
- Austin’s Action Plan to End Homelessness