AUSTIN -- Some downtown business owners say Austin's homeless population is negatively affecting business. They say moving services for the homeless out of downtown may be the best alternative for Austin tourism, residents and the homeless.
Downtown Austin is known for live music, restaurants and its growing homeless population. Business owners and out-of-town residents say Austin's homeless population has caused them to think twice about visiting or doing business downtown.
I do think it kind of looks bad on a city whenever you see someone panhandling on the corner, said San Marcos resident Michelle Stewart. You don't feel as safe as you would.
It just adds a strong criminal element into our downtown area, said President of the East 6th Street Community Association Bob Woody.
Pee Wee Offutt agrees. He's been homeless for 10 years.
Having such a homeless population, I think it increases crime, said Offutt. I have seen it first hand, and I don't think that's great for the tourist environment down here.
Several services that help the homeless are located in the heart of downtown. They include the ARCH (the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless), Caritas and the Salvation Army.
It is important to consider taking care of these people, said Woody.
Woody employs over 300 people at his downtown bars and restaurants. He says a campus setting for the homeless away from the downtown and entertainment districts is the best answer.
If the services are available somewhere those who really need the services will go there and use them, said Woody. The others will move on.
As KVUE reported Monday, property and business owners hope the fact that 6th Street is on the National Historic Registry will convince council members to ban panhandling on the street.
Where we are now and where we were 15 years ago has changed a lot, said Woody. The economics of these high-rises tells us that. Every time a $100 million hotel pops up it becomes another voice in council's ear that this needs to go away.
Woody says the old state school off of East MLK near Webberville Road is one such campus setting that might work. Moving the homeless services is just an idea downtown residents and business owners are discussing. No definitive plan has been brought to council as of this time.