Author Archives: Comms

How we’re going to get through this…

(spoiler alert…. the answer is *together*)


Make no mistake… we get to decide how quickly–and with what force–this virus enters our city. As individuals and together as a community, the choices are ours to make.  And everywhere, I see our community pulling together with concern for our neighbors. Once again, I’m proud of Austin. 

A lot has happened since I declared a local disaster to help slow the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. More local positive test results have surfaced and we have reason to expect some degree of community spread. Reports from other affected areas paint a picture that grows clearer by the hour. What Austin does in this moment matters. Data indicates that limiting contact between individuals can slow the spread of the virus, giving our healthcare facilities and staff some breathing room to prepare for the next phase of the response. 

Cities have been making difficult decisions for weeks and finally states and the federal government are taking some action designed to slow the spread of the virus in order to protect the most vulnerable and conserve medical resources. 

Now, we need your help. 

Here’s how you can be an active part of our community response: 

  • Stay home if you’re not feeling well.  Perhaps nothing is as important as this! 
  • Stay home when you can. Where possible, tele-commute and use online education tools. 
  • Limit your exposure. Avoid non-essential travel and exposure to groups of more than 10 people. 
  • Stay informed. Go to for a lot of key information in one place, including up to the minute updates on cancellations, facilities safety and the latest on local orders with links to local, state and national information and resources. 
  • Practice excellent hygiene. The “social distancing” (keeping 6 feet between yourself and others) and handwashing/sanitizing REALLY DO WORK. So keep at it.  
  • Ensure supplies for others. Grocery stores continue to be restocked with food and Austin Water is safe to drink. No need for excess bottled water, food or cleaning supplies. Buy what you need, but leave some for your neighbors. We should all consider not going to grocery stores the first hour they’re open so that older folks can shop in less crowded, recently sanitized conditions. [Note: the elderly and medically fragile should have someone else doing their shopping for them.] And, if we all practice normal buying patterns, everyone will have enough and the lines will shorten.   
  • Call your doctor if you feel sick. Don’t go to the emergency room if you think you have symptoms. A phone call to a doctor is the first step toward possible testing. If you don’t have a primary care physician, call CommUnityCare at 512-978-9015. 

As we work together to remain calm, support one another and slow the spread of the virus, we’re also working hard to help vulnerable workers and businesses weather the storm. It takes an army of retail staff, restaurant workers, childcare professionals, creatives, musicians and artists of all stripes to make this city a great place to live in and visit. Until Austin reopens for business, we’re taking steps to provide support, help keep businesses alive and workers afloat.  

To help with that, I’m asking vendors, lenders and landlords to work with their customers. With flexibility and integrity, we can get through this singular historical moment and emerge in the best position to restore our economy. This is the time to show grace as much—and as often–as we are able.  Our priorities include: 

  • Lending support for businesses. Helping small businesses connect to federal, state and private lending programs to keep their businesses afloat. 
  • Worker/Employer relief and assistance. Working with state and federal governments to unlock maximum benefits and activating the local philanthropic community to help mitigate lost wages. Workforce Solutions, Capital Area has resources and tools to help avoid layoffs and to offer support and planning when they need to happen.
  • Business resilience planning. Helping all Austinites think creatively about how customers, companies  and communities can connect and continue to do business… from a prudent distance. 

If you’re looking for other ways to help, the Stand With Austin Fund of the Austin Community Foundation is accepting donations to help those economically affected—and least likely to recover without help—by the cancellation of major events. My office will be sharing regular updates on ways to contribute, show support and continue to look out for one another.  

As a city, we are at our best at times like these. We work together to do what is required of us and we do it with humor, great food and more often than not, a little music. So don’t panic. Take care of your mental health and your loved ones. Order out and tip well. Right now, you can even catch virtual performances by some of Austin’s best acts

I’ll be in touch again soon, but if you have questions not answered by the City’s COVID-19 website or know of a community need my office should know about, shoot us a line at 

Thank you for your efforts. We’re all in this together. 

Steve Adler 

2019 Year in Review

2019 was a big year in all the ways we expected and a few we didn’t. We made major progress on affordability and mobility, putting bond money authorized by voters to good use and showing continued leadership on issues of equity, sustainability and climate. We continued to support the music and arts community and invested in good government practices and transparency. After seven years of hard work, study and community comment, Council ended the year by approving the first reading of the new draft land development code, a crucial step toward increasing housing stock, creating more affordable housing, reducing flood risk and providing transit options to meet the needs of our rapidly growing city.

2019 was also the year we took on homelessness as a city. Every corner of the civic debate was energized by Council’s efforts to decriminalize non-violent activities associated with homelessness and the resulting sense of urgency helped mobilized resources and focused a spotlight on the issue as a burgeoning national crisis. Working together with a coalition of service providers, Mayor and Council have made housing a top priority.

Here’s a look at what we accomplished together. (Actions taken by City Staff and/or by City Council.)

Defending Austin: Promoting the city’s values, character and priorities

  • 86th legislature brought big city mayors together to protect local priorities. 
  • Mayor and Council take steps to decriminalize homelessness 
  • Citywide Iftar features Ilhan Omar, welcomed by Mayor and members of Council promoting the Austin value of coming together.

Affordability: Keeping Austin affordable for the people who make it special.

  • The ‘Affordability Unlocked’ Development Bonus Program built on the 2018 Affordable Housing Bonds Began spending 2018 mobility and affordable housing bonds
  • Chalmers Court in East Austin opened a section of housing and broke ground on another on the way to more than 400 eventual units.
  • Increased the zoning capacity under UNO, North Burnet / Gateway, and Mueller
  • Provided a loan to Workforce Solutions to allow them to relocate and grow
  • Right to Return pilot program launched
  • Convened team to study cross-boundary collaboration around affordable housing through the Bloomberg Harvard Leadership Initiative
  • Austin’s housing strike fund (Austin Housing Conservancy Fund) ended the year with new funding and 3 long-term affordable properties under management.
  • Allocated $42M of planned spending from the 2018 affordable housing bond
  • Allocated a historic $14.4M for the Housing Trust Fund from the FY 19-20 budget in support of permanent supportive housing, housing rehabilitation, and land acquisition for affordable housing

Mobility: Working toward safe, efficient access to all parts of town… now and in the future

  • In September, announced Austin’s participation in Ford AV pilot with Ford Motor Company
  • In August, celebrated the completion of the Guadalupe/Lavaca project, the first corridor construction project which is part of the 2016 Mobility Bond
  • Continued work on Project Connect
  • Community gathering around transportation through: PUMA, Transit for Austin launch, MoveATX
  • Approved ASMP (Austin Strategic Mobility Plan)
  • Downtown MetroRail station 
  • Mayor was CAMPO chair and helped with the Capital Express Project Vote
  • Austin remains a testing space for new multimodal transportation, council leading nation in rules for micro mobility
  • Worked with UT on straightening Red River

Equity: Ensuring that Austin’s growth and success affect residents fairly 

  • Passed first reading of land development code
  • Austin’s first Latina Mayor Pro Tem 
  • Census Complete Count Committee
  • Funded start up costs for new Pre-K classrooms in Austin and surrounding ISDs 
  • Approved voter time off resolution 
  • Opened up City Council’s invocation than more than prayer through “Opening Moment”
  • Third party complaint system for sexual harassment 
  • Automatic library card to all AISD and Del Valle students
  • Permanent funding of parent support specialists at Title 1 schools
  • Trained over 400 people in the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s “Undoing Racism and Community Organizing Workshop,” developing anti-racist capacity among City staff and Austin community members
  • Reached over 2000 people milestone at the Beyond Diversity: Courageous Conversations About Race with Leadership Austin
  • Have 14 Courageous Conversations About Race (CCAR) Facilitators in Training preparing to offer one-day Beyond Diversity seminar
  • Developed the City’s first-ever “Request for Grant Applications” for the Equity Mini-Grant Fund, removing barriers and providing access to $75,000 of City funding for innovative, grassroots community organizations
  • Performed an assessment of the City’s bond election programs, ensuring funding was received for a community health center in the majority-People of Color and low-income neighborhood of Dove Springs
  • Worked with the 9 Commissions represented on the Joint Inclusion Committee to transform Quality of Life commissions budget recommendation process, delivering over $10 Million in funding over the last two budget cycles
  • Created online training on sexual harassment for all City employees to be rolled out in October 2019, with additional training targeting sexual harassment in the sworn departments in FY20
  • $200K allocated in FY 19-20 budget to conduct a Quality of Life study for people with disabilities
  • $250K allocated in the FY 19-20 budget for the equity mini grants program (up from $175k from the prior year)

Music and Arts: Nurturing the people and institutions and make Austin a music destination.

  • Voters rejected Props A & B 
  • Added a dedicated fund and approximately $3.5m/yr towards music
  • Unanimous approval to expand Convention Center
  • Moved funding for Red River streetscape improvements. Fixed 7th street alleyway issue
  • Expanded the Creative Space Assistance Program
  • HOT Tax spending of $12.8M in support of cultural arts
  • $3.5M allocation in the 2018 bond towards new community creative spaces plus $750K in operating funds to assist arts and music groups at risk of being displaced

Climate: Working toward a livable planet for future generations through thoughtful planning and leadership

  • August – Mayor & Council Declared a Climate Emergency
  • In December, announced participation in Climate Mayors Steering Committee
  • Participated in C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen
    • Signed Global Pledge to Reduce Air Pollution by reducing their local emissions and advocating for reductions in regional/state/national emissions
    • Climate Equity Pledge — Took pledge to increase action on community-led development, inclusive climate action and infrastructure projects that achieve major environmental, health, social and economic benefits especially in low-income and vulnerable communities.
    • Signed Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration — pledged to transition to Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets by: 1) procuring, with our partners, only zero-emission buses from 2025 and 2) ensuring a major area of our city is zero emission by 2030.
  • City of Austin Fleet:  200 electric vehicles by end of year, rising to 330 in 2020
  • Approved new floodplain maps and rules in response to Atlas 14

Preservation: Protecting the places that embody Austin’s rich history

  • In September, helped the Elizabet Ney Museum win $150,000 in grants to preserve the legacy of women’s history
  • In December, council voted to add historic designation to World War II veteran Richard Overton’s house
  • $11.9M spent in support of historic preservation

Government that Works: A commitment to transparency and good data in the execution of city business.

  • Opening of the new $122M Planning Development Center (summer 2020)
  • $8M in the capital rehabilitation fund for critical facility maintenance needs
  • $450K increase and additional staffing in the Office of Police Oversight to improve the transparency and accountability of community policing
  • $200K to conduct a Quality of Life study for people with disabilities

Homelessness: Laser-focused on making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. 

  • Decriminalized homelessness
  • Made historic investment of $62.7M in homelessness solutions
  • Traveled to Seattle and Los Angeles to better understand issue
  • Participated in several public forums to engage with the community directly
  • Participated in panel at this year’s Texas Tribune Fest focused on the issue
  • Homelessness blockchain project received $409,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help safeguard the personal info of people as they try to secure housing and services
  • Opened Terrace at Oak Springs – permanent supportive housing thorough Integral Care
  • Approved Riverside redevelopment with affordable housing + immediate units for homeless
  • The completion of the Rathgeber Center
  • Pay for Success approved
  • Progress toward a TPID to support homeless efforts
  • Cut youth homelessness PIT count by half
  • Re-did the ARCH contract, paying living wages, and changing the operational focus to housing and case management
  • Ramped up the Workforce First Pilot

Public Safety: One of the country’s safest big cities… and working to keep it that way.

  • Investigation of racism in APD
  • Sexual Assault Oversight
  • 30 new police officers as called for in the Police Department’s staffing plan 
  • Temporary fire staffing for D2 firehouse
  • Funded Bridge to Safety Program (domestic violence)
  • Funded Wildfire Mitigation

Reform and Progress: Big ideas, big plans and getting better all the time.

  • In September, broke ground on the Austin FC stadium. MLS officially coming to Austin!
  • First reading of new draft Land Development Code passed
  • Funded abortion support services in the budget 
  • Approved the long term plan for parks 
  • Approved plan for Asian American Resource Center (and initiated planning in on adjacent property), Dougherty Arts Center, and Brush Square
  • Started construction and acquired land for new fire stations.
  • Worked to set up a Municipal Management District to raise money to acquire MUNY
  • Passed an election day time-off resolution
  • Audit of Cultural Centers
  • Removed a 100+ year exclusion from taxes for lakefront property
  • Improved training resources and made recommended changes for mental health first responders
  • Allocated $3M in the FY budget in support of workforce development providers

Noteworthy Extras

  • Sent queso to the moon!
  • Mayor Adler named Best elected Official by Austin Chronicle 4th year in a row
  • Received United States Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo 2019 CommunityWINS $100,000 Grant for Outstanding Achievement Metropolitan City for Affordable Central Texas, Inc. to support the Affordable Central Texas Project (housing strike fund)
  • Announced Texas Capital Bank as first bank investor in Austin Housing Conservancy Fund
  • Austin announced as USCM 2020 host City

Budget for 2019-20 reflects what matters to Austin

The budget Council has approved is responsible, innovative and focused on equitable solutions. It embodies the priorities and character of Austin, with investments in arts and music, affordability and mobility, public safety and making chronic homelessness a thing of the past. The budget accomplishes all of this while preserving city service affordability for residents and homeowners.

State leadership has made this kind of budget very difficult to achieve in the future. While tying the hands of cities with revenue caps, the legislature has also opted not to promote or fund statewide solutions for major challenges that affect major cities, including homelessness. We remain hopeful that state leadership may yet consider help for Texas cities as other states have recently done.

In the meantime, our budget will take on sexual assault and mental health services and execute the solutions promised by the 2018 affordable housing bond. It improves the transparency and accountability of community policing and assists arts and music groups in danger of being displaced. 

Ideas for action on the City’s highest priority


As Mayor and City Council members, we have been listening to the people of Austin, our city staff, and the many stakeholders who work with people experiencing homelessness in our community. We’re certain our colleagues join us in committing to a continued community conversation on homelessness leading to further Council action in September that would include, but not be limited to, the kinds of ideas described in this document. We post this onto the public Council Message Board because the entire Council joined in setting homelessness as our City’s highest priority and all of us will continue working together on this issue. This document is intended to present ideas for action and we welcome discussion on these and other ideas.


  • Proposed principles and goals
  • Proposed community agreement and direction
  • Our community needs multiple housing types and services for individuals experiencing homelessness
  • We know what works
  • New programs, expansions, and increased housing capacity on the horizon
  • Possible places from among which to increase restrictions on camping, sitting, and lying
  • Ordinance standards, interpretations, and applications
  • Rules regarding camping where it occurs as we build out more housing and services
  • Rules for parks
  • Non-policing tools to encourage people to go to better and safer places

Let’s find a constructive way to move forward to end homelessness.

Mayor Adler, Council Member Tovo, Council Member Kitchen


  • We are concerned with both people experiencing homelessness and public places.
  • We don’t want camping in public places.
  • We want to help and treat well our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
  • Providing housing is the only real way both to help people and to avoid camping. 
  • The more housing and beds we provide, the more places where we can limit camping.


To prevent camping, sitting, and lying in certain locations, we need to provide better and safer places for people experiencing homelessness to be. As we provide more housing (w/services), we can more effectively and ethically list more places for people to not camp, beyond the current restrictions. This is the agreement and promise we make with ourselves, the social compact we establish in our community. We should begin building that list now at the same time we are taking immediate steps to build housing capacity.

This past June, the City Council did three things: one, we removed some of the camping ban while leaving some restrictions in place; two, we asked the City Manager and the community to consider more carefully tailored restrictions than those that previously existed; and three, we took immediate steps to increase housing capacity.

By unanimously approving Resolution No. 184 last June, the City Council asked the City Manager to “propose reasonable time and place opportunities and limitations on camping, sitting and lying.”

Prohibiting camping, sitting, and lying, without providing people with a place to go, is a failed strategy.  Moving people experiencing homelessness away from one public place only moves them to another public place.  Ticketing or arresting people, or threatening to do so, merely for being homeless and having no good option for where else to go, is inhumane and counterproductive.   

Nor is camping a solution to homelessness.  We do not want any of our neighbors, especially our most vulnerable, to have to live with the public safety and health risks of life on the streets.

We can and must do better for those experiencing homelessness, for our public spaces, and for our community as a whole.

The “Action Plan to End Homelessness,” developed by housing providers with ECHO and endorsed by the City Council in 2018, identifies the models and programs that are working here locally that we must scale to city-wide levels if we want to end homelessness in our city. Over the last several years, the City Council has supported achieving effective zero veteran homelessness, the Homelessness Outreach Street Team, a redesign to a housing-focused model at the ARCH, and other initiatives, and has allocated more money to housing and social service providers working to end homelessness. The City’s new full-time Homeless Strategy Officer (an executive level position) will start the first week of September.  It is intended that also in September, the City Council will vote on action items related to homelessness as well as a city budget that includes multiple investments in housing and services.

We want community input. Ending homelessness in Austin will require partnerships among local governments, non-profit housing and service providers, faith communities, philanthropists, neighborhoods, and others. Austin is fortunate to have so many in the community who are doing great work to address and prevent homelessness, and they need our support and the resources to sustain and expand their operations.

None of us can do this alone; we must work together.  We can do it and we must.


The types of housing we need to provide include but are not limited to the following.

  • Rapid Re-Housing, helping someone quickly secure housing often with a voucher or rent support, is sometimes the best answer for an individual or family who needs a home but not frequent or extensive mental or physical health or social services. Many people experiencing homelessness are the victims of the “perfect storm” and have suddenly lost their partner, their job, their family, and their home and find themselves on the streets. If they can quickly receive help to secure housing, many will be able to return to self-sufficiency within a few months to a year.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing, long-term housing coupled with supportive services is often the ultimate answer to effectively end homelessness for many people.  This requires significant capital expenditures as well as the cost for services. 
  • Shelters provide different types of immediate and emergency housing and provide a safer and healthier place for people to be while obtaining other support they might need (e.g., medical, mental health, substance use resources, job, etc.) to obtain permanent housing and to help stabilize their lives.
    • Individuals living in shelters should have a housing-exit strategy or a plan to get into permanent supportive housing. 
    • People should be moved through, not moved to shelters. 
    • Shelters are designed and operated specifically to avoid neighborhood disruption as they are located throughout the city and use practices such as:
      • Limitation on number of beds
      • Prohibition on drop-in services
      • Prohibition on providing services for people not living at the location
      • Residents admitted by referral only
      • Prohibition on camping, sitting, and lying outside
      • Added public safety and public health attention
      • Regular Mayor and Council on-site visits with neighbors
  • Day Services Centers offer drop-in services.   
    • Individuals do not stay long at such a facility, only during the day.
    • Individuals are assessed, their needs identified, and they are then connected to financial aid; social, mental and physical health services; housing referrals; and other services such as showers, bathrooms, and storage.

We know what works

Austin has organizations and programs achieving great results. All of these initiatives and organizations, and others, could reach more people and achieve greater results with more resources and support to reach more people, establish additional locations, and provide more homes. Among our successes:

  • Effectively Ended Veteran Homelessness. Austin is one of a limited number of cities that has been able to achieve “effective zero” veteran homelessness (meaning we can provide permanent housing for vets within 60 days and services almost immediately).
    • Community partners like the Austin Apartment Association, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), Salvation Army, Caritas, Community First, and others focused on finding and providing housing, and this was key.
    • Innovative solutions, such as the philanthropist and business created and funded “risk fund” to mitigate the perception of financial risk for participating landlords have proven very important.
    • Community partners and local governments funded rental vouchers and assistance to help increase the number of available homes.
  • Cut Youth Homelessness in Half. We’ve cut in half the number of children and youth living on our streets in a LifeWorks initiative using targeted federal funding for homes and services. The goal is to house the other children and youth this next year. 
  • Kept People Housed. Caritas uses individualized interventions and reports that 97% of individuals enrolled in its permanent supportive housing program remained stable one year after placement.
  • Created Community. Community First Village has been able to provide more than 200 people with housing and community.

There are new programs, expansions and housing capacity on the horizon

There is new capacity about to open and more in the planning stages. These efforts need additional support. The following are some of the initiatives creating new housing capacity.

  • The Salvation Army’s new Rathgeber Family Center will provide more than 200 shelter beds and transitional housing for families with children and will create increased shelter capacity of more than 50 beds for individuals Downtown. The City and the Downtown Austin Alliance are contributing to this effort. The Salvation Army is continuing to fundraise and needs additional money to operate the Rathgeber Family Center at full capacity.
  • Caritas, Salvation Army, Community First, Foundation Communities and others have announced plans to add hundreds of new beds, permanent homes and capacity, but need further community support.
  • An innovative “Pay for Success” program is about to begin a 5-year effort to sustain housing for up to 250 individuals who are among the most frequent users of our emergency medical services, emergency rooms, jails, and who have the greatest interaction with law enforcement. (This is a collaboration between Travis County and the City of Austin, Central Health, Community Care Collaborative, Episcopal Health Foundation, Ascension-Seton, St. David’s Foundation and Seton Health Care).
  • The City has begun moving toward establishing shelters and permanent supportive housing in all ten council districts in a manner that avoids neighborhood disruption.
  • Terrace at Oak Springs, a 50-unit Housing First project, will open soon, serving individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness and who have one or more barriers to maintaining housing, such as a mental health diagnosis and/or chronic alcohol or substance use. This project is a collaboration of the City of Austin, Austin-Travis County Integral Care, and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin.
  • The 2018 Affordable Housing Bond passed by the voters has begun to create many permanent supportive housing units throughout the city.
  • The City Manager’s proposed budget for next year contains historic levels of financial support for housing for those experiencing homelessness.

We should continue to learn from successful models in other cities and to pursue additional opportunities to house and serve individuals experiencing homelessness through options such as the following:

  • Purchase of hotels or apartment buildings to be converted to this use
  • Apartment buildings willing to accept new tenants
  • Boarding houses, tiny, and/or modular homes
  • Places for respite and recuperative care for medically fragile patients
  • Expanded housing options for those with mental health issues and substance use disorders
  • Opportunities to ensure housing for individuals with disabilities
  • Housing that accommodates pets, partners, and possessions


As we provide more housing, we should now begin creating a list of public spaces where camping, sitting, and lying may possibly not be allowed now and in the future. These spaces could include the areas listed below. 

  • This is the agreement and promise we make with ourselves, the social compact we establish in our community.
    • We should not tell people they can’t be in certain public places if we’re not able to tell them where, alternatively, there’s a viable place for them to be.
    • Restricting camping, sitting, and lying in certain public places will merely serve to move those individuals to other public places if there are not better places for them to be.
  • We should immediately consider placing restrictions from among areas such as those set out below because they are not the most safe, humane, or best places for people to be, or because they pose public safety risks or public health hazards.  Over time, as more housing is provided for more people, the restricted areas within such categories would be able to grow in number and size. 
    • Vehicular traffic
      • Adjacent to roadways or medians
      • Adjacent to or on transit, bus or rail facilities
    • Sidewalks, paths, and trails
      • Allowing safe, unobstructed passage for people and wheelchairs, bikes, strollers, etc.
    • Schools/child care facilities
    • Creeks, rivers, floodplain, flood ways, high fire risk areas
    • Areas with high pedestrian activity
      • Specifically naming some streets (e.g. Congress Avenue, Second Street, Sixth Street, South Congress, or the Drag, etc.)
      • Entrances to buildings, residences, or businesses
    • Shelters, bridge homes, navigation centers
    • ARCH
  • Camping is currently prohibited in the following areas.  As we know, enforcement is difficult. Arresting and ticketing doesn’t work and is counterproductive. In significant part, however, enforcement is hampered by our failure to provide alternate better and safer places for people to be.  The best and most direct way to provide for effective enforcement of ordinances concerning the following areas is for us to provide more housing.
    • Public parks
    • Private property
    • City libraries
    • City recreation centers
    • Ceremonial Buildings (Governor Mansion, City Hall, Capitol)
    • Other city facilities with a curfew
    • Bus stops
    • Camping in ways that present a public safety risk
    • Camping in ways that present a public health hazard
    • Camping in a place that does not allow for reasonable use of public property
  • Areas restricted from camping in such categories should be based on appropriate, objective standards.
    • Such standards could relate to criteria like proximity, traffic volume, vehicular speed, a safety or health standard, appropriate passageway width, pedestrian count, or other standards.
    • The standard can adjust over time as more housing is provided.
  • Neighborhood Efforts
    • In addition to the continuing efforts of all the partners to address homelessness citywide, including areas with the highest concentration of individuals experiencing homelessness, like Downtown, we should consider adopting a practice that allows a neighborhood or an organization to ask the City to restrict camping in a certain place if the neighborhood or organization assists the City or service provider to provide those camping there with a better, safer, and more desirable place somewhere else in that area.


Better enforcement and clarification of the existing and future ordinances may be necessary to achieve appropriate enforcement.  The Council should consider better defining:

  • safety risk, health hazard, and blocking/impeding of public property
  • indicia of terms such as “aggressive confrontation” and “threatening”
  • the proof necessary to establish a violation


As we increase housing and services, we should consider rules for camping that could include limitations on size of tents/structures and the volume of belongings; providing tools (such as purple bags) for and required participation in ensuring cleanliness of grounds and avoidance of litter; appropriate places to provide showers and water, personal storage lockers; and processes to ensure people can keep their belongings secure.


  • Reaffirm parks rules that prohibit camping and post clear information for the public
  • Expand works program for people experiencing homelessness to work on parks clean-ups
  • Increase parks maintenance funding with targeted focus on areas with high concentrations of people experiencing homelessness
  • Increase the number of park waste receptacles and the availability of purple bags for individuals experiencing homelessness


  • Incentives for individuals to choose better and safer places
    • Facilities (bathrooms, showers, laundry, storage lockers)
    • Safe, clean, well maintained
    • Provide basic needs
    • Some allowing anyone in need to access (low barrier, pursuing housing first policies)
    • Provide spaces for pets, couples, small aligned groups from the streets or camps
    • Economic support and a pathway to housing
  • Facilitators
    • Non-Public Safety Officers, in some situations and with some people, may be seen as less official and less threatening facilitators helping individuals move to better, safer places
      • Lay workers triaging and facilitating the movement of people
      • HOST team members (other than APD), DAA Ambassadors, Community Health Paramedics (EMS), Community First Ambassadors (people who have previously experienced homelessness)
      • Social workers, Mental Health workers riding with public safety officers
    • Helping people needing assistance to get to:
      • Sobering Center
      • Mental Health assistance
      • Shelter/bridge home/navigation center
      • Community Court

Mayor Adler’s Statement on Proposed 2020 Budget

August 5, 2019 — The proposed city budget announced today represents an historic investment to accelerate our response to homelessness. At an increase of $17M over last year — or a total of $62.7M — it’s a bold step that I hope will ally the business, faith, neighborhood, and non-profit communities to join us in action and purpose. Homelessness is the priority and the moment is now. 

This budget substantially expands public safety spending — with specific emphasis on sexual assault and mental health — while maintaining affordability with only a 2.5% total increase in combined city taxes and energy, water and other city utility fees.

State leadership and the legislature have made this kind of budget very difficult in the future.  We have a year to figure this out. Maybe the State will help us with the cost of responding to homelessness, just as California committed $650 million in targeted assistance to its cities a month ago. 

The announcement of Lori Pampilo-Harris as Austin’s first Homeless Strategy Officer is like the cavalry coming over the hill. She has a unique moment to align the city, businesses, neighborhoods, and non-profits to address our concerns both for people and places.