City leaders discuss solutions to Downtown homeless issue
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As city planners work to attract more people to downtown Austin, they are running into one persistent problem they say keeps people out—Austin’s homeless.
It is estimated that as many as 5,000 people call the streets of Austin home, and the city's homeless aid programs have drawn many of them downtown.
“From a law enforcement perspective, is that the best place to have it? I don't think I can be convinced it is," Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “This is not just about tourism. It's not just about business. It's about the quality of life that we're trying to attract to the core of the city.”
The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), the Salvation Army and Caritas, all organizations providing aid for the homeless, are located in the heart of Downtown.
Mitchell Gibbs runs Front Steps, a homeless advocacy group working out of the ARCH.
"Great, move us," he said. “Put us someplace else, not a problem with that, as long you have all the services that those people need available to them at that site."
Mayor Lee Leffingwell admits there's a problem, but finding a place to move these facilities won’t be easy.
"Anyone out there that would like to volunteer their neighborhood,” he said. “Let me know."
The City of Austin is studying ways to deal with the homeless problem. Just last month, a group of city leaders went to Miami to see how homeless services work there.