In the fraught local election that took place this weekend, Austin voters voted in favor of the polarizing homeless camping ban that would make it a criminal offense (Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine) for anyone to sit, lie down, or camp in public areas. It would also prohibit solicitation of money or other things of value at specific hours and locations.
According to The Austin American-Statesman, 57% of voters voted in favor of reinstating the ban, and 42% voted against it. A simple majority was required for the approval of Proposition B.
In the weeks and months leading up to the election, fervent campaign efforts were seen from both sides. with Homes not Handcuffs leading the opposition. The organization was joined by Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, as well as homeless charities and independent advocates.
Adler has since issued a statement affirming that the proposition would go ahead on May 11, following the certification of the election. He went on to imply that further action would be taken.
“This election underscores that we need to accelerate and scale a solution to end camping. Our next step is to get people out of tents and into better, safer places with the critical services needed to keep them out of tents,” the mayor stated. “We must pool our resources to get our unhoused residents into homes, and that will take the whole community rallying together to commit to this cause.”
The city’s camping ban was first reversed in a unanimous vote by the Austin City Council on June 20, 2019, arguing that the policy had led to citations for people experiencing homelessness that hurt their ability to find housing. The move was criticized by Gov. Greg Abbott who promised to take action against Austin. The issue made its way back onto the ballot by way of a successful indirect initiative petition drive.