AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, the Downtown Austin Alliance hosted a public forum addressing the recent camping and sit/lie ordinances that went into effect at the beginning of this month. About 300 people were in attendance.
The panelists included Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley, Veronica Briseño, City of Austin Interim Homeless Strategy Officer, and Bill Brice, Vice President Investor Relations for Downtown Austin Alliance.
The panel was held from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Central Presbyterian Church located at 200 E. Eighth Street.
The topics discussed centered around the homeless population in Austin. Popular talking points included the recent changes to the ordinances and the impacts of the changes and shelters in the area.
Briseño said the City has been discussing shelters long before the changes to the ordinances happened. She also mentioned they are looking into putting a shelter in each council district.
"We need more shelter now," said Brice. "That shelter needs to be temporary, where people move through it, not to it."
Manley called for shelters that include support services. He also spoke about if the ordinances impacted policing at all.
"The ordinances did not impact the police department's ability to engage with individual's whose conduct is threatening, hazard or danger to somebody else, or who in their conduct is making public space impassable, obstructed," said Manley.
Manley went on to clear up confusion regarding some conversation about arrests impacting homeless people's ability to find places to live.
"I think there has been a lot of discussion about the number of arrests that were being made of homeless individuals and how this impacted their ability to get future housing, and the numbers don't show that," said Manley. "For the past couple of years, we had a significant decrease in the arrests of homeless individuals."
He said police are looking into if they would need to get a search warrant to search a homeless person's tent or makeshift structure.
Manley said his top concern is public safety, while Brice said his concern is the future of the city.
"What sometimes literally keeps me up at night is that we become Seattle, Portland or L.A., places where we hear and see," he paused as the crowd of people applauded. "Where we hear and see horrible videos and stories."
Attendance was open to all, but those interested in attending were required to RSVP.
You can watch a portion of the event here.
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