I would like to take a moment to speak about the concerns with the homeless population in Downtown Austin. I think that Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, business owners, and Downtown residents discuss this issue in a very insensitive way.
Consider the population this actually involves: the homeless. Most of the homeless do not choose to live this way. It is a matter of misfortune or mental illness. Homelessness has risen in this country because the cost of rent has risen. Downtown Austin couldn't be a more gleaming indicator of that. Talking about the homeless like an infestation is ignorant to the hardship that this increasingly large population is going through. As a teacher in Austin ISD, I teach homeless students. They come to school every day and work harder than most of my students with homes. Just like all students deserve the right to an education, all people deserve the right to try to live, regardless of what that means or looks like. Exporting the homeless, or attempting to relocate them, is just a sign of how the city has lost touch with itself. As Downtown glimmers and shines more with each new high-rise, the homeless are seen as dust to sweep under a rug.
The new Downtown homeowners have the most vapid concerns, complaining that as taxpayers they are entitled to a homeless-free area. There are many flaws with this reasoning. If Austin wants to continue claiming that it is a treasure trove of diversity and "weirdness,” then they may want to take a look at who is moving Downtown. It is one kind of person – a wealthy person – and apparently a person who has little to no regard for the other residents in the neighborhood. The homeless population has existed far longer than the glass-wrapped condos peeking over the skyline, and regardless of who is or isn't paying taxes, a level of respect should be adhered to for all residents of Downtown. Living in an urban area comes with living alongside a diverse multitude of residents. If people do not want to live with people of various lifestyles, then they should move to the suburbs.
As your article stated, most of the safety concerns Downtown come from intoxicated college students [“Then There's This: Cracking Down on Homelessness
,” News, Nov. 2]. If the homeless were buying drinks, like the college students are, then I wonder if the business owners would be complaining so much. This city is for all of us.