Public Notice: Strange Bedfellows Indeed
Do AJC, SAN, really see eye-to-eye on homeless policy?
It isn't often that you'll find the Austin Justice Coalition and local GOP boss Matt Mackowiak lined up on the same side of an issue, but this week, AJC and Mackowiak's Save Austin Now both came out with impassioned press releases demanding that City Council act faster to address the homelessness problem now that Proposition B has passed and public camping will again be outlawed.
AJC's call to action is a petition (see AustinJustice.org) demanding that City Council and the Travis County Commissioners Court each commit $100 million of their American Rescue Plan relief funding, in order to boost the city's goal (adopted at the recent "summit") of housing 3,000 people in the next three years up to 5,000, along with improving services and "addressing the inequities that exist within the unhoused community." They also ask the city's private sector to step up, matching the public investment by committing another $100 million to the plan. With Prop B enforcement looming, they say, there is urgency in "providing housing options that work for people and making policy changes that prevent homelessness."
Save Austin Now agrees on the urgency, responding to the city's enforcement plan (more on that here) by saying Austinites "should not have to wait two more months before this public camping disaster is fixed once and for all." Now, you might think that what Mackowiak really has in mind here involves good old-fashioned nightsticks, and sending these people back to the creeks or sewers or wherever else they came from. But you can't really say that, so the statement continues, "We want the homeless to be in safe and sheltered locations so they can receive services." So, where are those safe and sheltered locations going to be? Again, I have my suspicions about what SAN really means by this. Jails have some capacity, after all. But again, you can't really quite say that, even in Austin, so again, the statement goes on ... well, it doesn't, really. It just sort of leaves it there, with no suggestion of what ought to be done about the matter, except to note that the money spent thus far has barely made a dent in the problem.
So in the spirit of trying to get shit done, I'll take SAN at their word, and believe that they're sincere about wanting to find safe and sheltered locations, and services, for the homeless population, and to really fix the problem "once and for all" instead of shoving it under the rug as we've done for decades. Because I know that's what a majority of Austinites voted for on May 1 – whether they voted "no" because enforcement is not a solution, or voted yes because the current no-enforcement-but-not-much-other-action-either strategy wasn't working.
So, great! It appears we have a consensus, and some momentum to actually take decisive action on an issue that's been increasingly troublesome in cities nationwide for decades. Let's not squander the opportunity. Join Austin Justice Coalition and Save Austin Now in demanding that our city and county leaders "ensure that this unified strategic vision comes to fruition."