Rep. Chip Roy Letter To Austin City Mayor Steve Adler RE: Homelessness Policy
WASHINGTON--Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) sent the following letter to the Mayor of Austin regarding the city of Austin's new policy allowing homeless people to sleep and camp in public spaces:
September 30, 2019
Mr. Steve Adler
City of Austin
301 West 2nd Street, 2nd Floor
Austin, Texas 78701
On July 1, 2019, the City of Austin implemented a new policy allowing homeless people to sleep and camp in public spaces. While I believe the issue of homelessness is primarily a local and state matter, it is incumbent upon me as a Member of Congress representing downtown Austin to speak out about policies that are particularly harmful to the fabric of our community.
After hearing from constituents in Austin, as well as my experience as a resident of the city, I have several problems with the new policy that I believe are important to note. The new ordinance undermines security, harms private property of our citizens, hurts commerce, and endangers those it purports to help – the homeless.
The ordinance is a lazy approach to dealing with homeless individuals in our community. City policies should not incentivize individuals to sleep on the streets, but rather they should initiate an empathetic response that supports the inclusion of necessary resources. Allowing homeless people to sleep in nearly all public spaces can lead to increased risks of violence, crime, health issues, and other negative consequences.
It is bad enough to essentially give up on the homeless community by encouraging people to set up tents on the streets, but the city council’s new policy also negatively impacts Austin residents, as well as tourists and visitors – including the hundreds of thousands of people traveling to Austin each year to enjoy events such as Austin City Limits.
Additionally, the policy’s exemption of private property has failed to deter homeless perching near businesses. I have heard multiple complaints from local business owners. Some businesses have reported the need for additional property locks, and others report finding needles in parking lots. Austin should not follow the unsanitary and destructive path commonly seen in places like San Francisco.
Furthermore, a longstanding concern for many Austinites is that the city is losing its character at an alarming pace. Recently, the city has witnessed the closings of many historic establishments, like Threadgill’s, where Carrah and I celebrated our rehearsal dinner. The degradation of Austin’s unique personality will only be exacerbated by the negative impact the new homeless ordinance is already having on local commerce in the area. It is also regrettable the city readily included exemptions for city parks where camping is still happening, and City Hall – a common public space.
Proper solutions to homelessness must be put forth by members of the community, including service organizations, healthcare professionals, and business leaders. The city should collaborate with local organizations to provide resources, including beds, while working toward the goal of identifying permanent housing and employment opportunities for the homeless community. This approach has worked for other cities, including Houston where homelessness has decreased by half. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the City Council in whatever ways may be appropriate, but the city must change the policy.
Member of Congress
Robert Donachie | Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX)
1319 Longworth House Office Building | Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-4236 | (202) 225-8628 (f)