Hearing at Austin City Council exposes sharp public divide in camping ban debate

September 18, 2019
Austin-American Statesman

Emotions ran high as the public weighed in Wednesday on the Austin City Council’s removal in June of homeless camping bans that now might be resurrected.

More than 150 people addressed the council in a hearing that at times grew heated and exposed wide rifts between those who want the camping bans to return and those who see such bans as criminalizing homelessness.

“This policy is a disaster, an absolute disaster,” Travis County Republican Chair Matt Mackowiak said near the outset of the hearing. “Today you are admitting it.”

Homeless camping has become the most controversial topic in city politics in recent months. Frustrations have grown as encampments that once were hidden have become far more visible with tents lining the streets near the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless and under Texas 71 in South Austin.