In Austin, people experiencing homelessness are criminalized for sitting, resting, and trying to survive

October 17, 2018

Data from Grassroots Leadership, Gathering Ground Theater find people experiencing homelessness are repeatedly ticketed by police and pushed into unhealthy situations

AUSTIN — A new report is shedding light on the rampant criminalization of people experiencing homelessness in Austin. And advocates are saying the city can do much better

The research, a collaboration between Gathering Ground Theater and Grassroots Leadership, shows how widespread the problem is in Austin. Among other findings, this new research shows that people experiencing homelessness in downtown experience a high level of criminalization. From the report:

The individuals we surveyed were issued an average of 5.7 tickets under the ordinances that criminalize homelessness over the course of the year preceding the date of the survey. The results demonstrate high levels of police harassment and avoidance of police among folks experiencing homelessness. Folks reported walking for hours and going without rest to avoid ticketing and arrest for sitting or lying. Furthermore, the vast majority of individuals who interacted with police due to these ordinances were not connected to social services or housing assistance as a result of ticketing and arrest.

The full report is available here.

According to Cate Graziani, criminal justice campaigns coordinator with Grassroots Leadership and co-author of the report, “The City Auditor warned the City of Austin about potential constitutional issues with the local ordinances that criminalize homelessness last November. That same report cited how ineffective the criminal justice system is at directing people to services and housing, and how counterproductive criminalization is for people that need work and a roof over their head,” she said. “The repeal of the three City of Austin ordinances that criminalize people experiencing homelessness, while only one step, would go a long way to addressing the harm people are experiencing.”

The three ordinances that criminalize people experiencing homelessness are: Panhandling (9.4.13), Camping (9.4.11), and No Sit/No Lie (9.4.14).

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past. Follow us @Grassroots_News.



Cate Graziani,, 512-499-8111