Voters in Austin, Texas, adopted a proposition during Saturday’s elections to reinstate a ban on camping in certain public areas, a win for those seeking to address the city’s homeless who are living in tents along the streets.
The ballot measure, known as Proposition B, passed 57 percent to 43 percent, according to election results.
It includes a ban on “sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in and near the Downtown area and the area around the University of Texas campus,” certain types of solicitation, and “camping in any public area not designated by the Parks and Recreation Department.”
The group that petitioned to add the proposition to the ballot, Save Austin Now, celebrated its victory Saturday night. Cofounder Matt Mackowiak stated on social media, “Tonight’s decisive win for @saveaustinnow is a clear message to @MayorAdler and @GregCasar that a majority of Austinites will no longer tolerate failed policies that harm standard of living.”
The group had been making its case against deregulation of public camping and solicitation while it fundraised and collected petition signatures, and published a video of examples in April to illustrate its issue:
Our city last week. pic.twitter.com/SiBo1wLO1E
— SaveAustinNow (@SaveAustinNow) April 16, 2021
“Every day, Austinites are suffering from the free-for-all associated with the City’s deregulation of all public camping and aggressive panhandling,” Save Austin Now’s website states. “Crime has skyrocketed 43%. We’re on track for more murders this year than in the last 3 years combined. Lawlessness is not helping the homeless and it’s not helping Austin.”
Those opposed to the ban included Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D), the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), Homes Not Handcuffs, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company, as detailed by local outlet KXAN.
Ben & Jerry’s, which often engages in political activism, wrote on social media prior to the vote, “We’ll never police our way out of the homelessness crisis”:
We’ll never police our way out of the homelessness crisis, and Prop B would take Austin backwards. Vote NO! https://t.co/UcYZiuR8S7
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) April 26, 2021
ECHO argued on its website the ban would “actively make ending homelessness more difficult” and that “recriminalizing homelessness would also have a disproportionate impact on our Black neighbors experiencing homelessness.”
Write to Ashley Oliver at [email protected].