Texas governor threatens state intervention to solving Austin’s homelessness issue
If the Austin, Texas, government cannot adequately address its rampant homelessness issue before Nov. 1, Texas Governor Greg Abbott will marshal state resources to address it.
Abbott sent Austin Mayor Steve Adler a letter on Oct. 2, outlining the ultimatum. Abbott cited the accumulation of used needles and feces, growing encampments beside roads threatening traffic flow and businesses being violently threatened in trying to keep people from sleeping on sidewalks as reasons for the demand, calling them, “health and safety concerns.”
“You—as the Mayor of Austin—and your colleagues are charged with maintaining ‘the welfare, health, morals, comfort, safety, and convenience’ of your residents. That charge demands a robust response to the mounting homelessness crisis in Austin,” Abbott wrote, quoting the Austin City Charter.
In the letter, Abbott explains how six state agencies — the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Transportation and the Office of the Attorney General — could act to protect against the public’s health and safety.
Abbott demanded that Adler “demonstrate consequential improvement in the Austin homelessness crisis and the danger it poses to the health and safety of the public,” and that “meaningful reforms” be implemented by Nov. 1. Otherwise, he promised to direct “every applicable state agency to act” in addressing the issue.
Two days earlier, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) sent a letter to Adler, criticizing the mayor’s July policy allowing homeless people to sleep and camp in public places, according to Roy’s official website. Roy posited that the city should be working with the community to provide resources to homeless people, while trying to find them permanent housing and work, and he offered to work with the city council on such measures.
Adler responded by claiming that the city has been trying to tackle homelessness with that approach, according to NBC affiliate KXAN.
“We expect our law enforcement to continue to enforce the laws we have in this state, but if someone’s not creating a public safety risk or a public health hazard, we shouldn’t be trying to put them in jail,” Adler said, per KXAN. “What we should be doing is trying to put them in a home. That’s how we solve this challenge. That’s how we end homelessness.”