Austin Votes To Scale Back Laws Opponents Say Criminalize Homelessness

June 21, 2019
KUT
But David Johnson, an organizer with the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership, called the city's ordinances "modern-day racist oppression just broadened so that it's classist oppression." He said it's wrong for the city to punish homeless people for sleeping outdoors when the city doesn't have enough room in its emergency shelters. "Austin created this problem. Austin created this problem by failing to protect the interests of, provide for and plan with the individuals who are most in need," he said, "while we were enjoying this wonderfully boundless expansion and growth and financial development period in which we were so proud." The hourslong testimony got heated, with multiple council members admonishing attendees for jeering or shouting during testimony. Mayor Steve Adler said Austin is in a unique position, compared to other cities that have had to grapple with issues related to homelessness – largely on grander scales – like Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. "The conversation that we're having in this room is unlike any of the conversations that are happening in any of the public meetings in those cities," Adler said. "We still have an opportunity to take advantage of the fact that there's a collective will ... that does not exist the same way in those cities, because battle lines have been drawn."