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'It's getting bad' | Downtown Austin business owner wants City leaders to acknowledge safety concerns over homeless camps

The owner of Vince Young Steakhouse said the situation has gotten worse in the past six months.

AUSTIN, Texas — Complaints about Austin's homeless situation have moved from the streets to social media. And it's not just State and City leaders but business owners, too.

The latest business owner to highlight the city's homeless situation on Twitter is Phillip Brown. He and his wife, Laura, own Vince Young Steakhouse near San Jacinto Boulevard and East Third Street.

"It's almost getting to a boiling point," Brown said. "Almost every night when I walk to my car after work, I'm having to kick people out of our parking lot, call the cops to remove people."

About a year-and-a-half ago, Brown said a man attacked him after confronting him for vandalizing his restaurant's patio.

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"Knocking over tables, knocking glasses and stuff off of tables," he said. "I guess he had a bottle of tequila in his bag and he swung it up and it split me right between my eyes."

Brown also recalled an incident about three weeks after the city council relaxed the homeless ordinances in July 2019. He had confronted a man who was trying to urinate near his business.

"He totally cursed at me, told me, 'This is Austin. I can do whatever I want,'" Brown said. "Came back to work that evening and my door was kicked in."

Credit: Phillip Brown

Most recently, there was a stabbing between two homeless men in the employee parking lot adjacent to the restaurant.

"It's just a matter of time until something happens to one of our employees, I think," Brown said.

A 2019 City of Austin survey found nearly 55% of the people surveyed said they don't feel safe walking alone downtown at night. More than 19% said they don't feel safe walking alone downtown during the day.


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Jake Kimble, who lives downtown, told KVUE while he doesn't want his wife to walk alone downtown at night, he doesn't think the area is unsafe.

"We really can't control how many more people are moving here and moving downtown and all the construction and things that are going around. I really don't think it's getting any worse or it's anybody's fault," Kimble said. "It's just the natural progression of how the city's growing."

Liz Desselle, who lives on Rainey Street, agreed.

"As the city grows, it's bound to become a little more dangerous, a little more violent," she said. "I'm from Houston originally, and I would not walk around by myself there at night. So I think as Austin gets bigger, it's going to be a little bit more dangerous."

Brown said his business isn't going anywhere, but he wants the City to acknowledge the issues affecting business owners and find solutions.

"We would never want to be anywhere else. We just want the City to do their job," he said.

KVUE spoke with Mayor Steve Adler on Monday afternoon, after Gov. Greg Abbott criticized City leaders for not giving police the resources they need.

"If you are experiencing homelessness, you are much more likely a victim of a crime than to be someone that perpetuates a crime," Adler said. "[It] doesn't do us any good to demonize those folks or create doubt or anxiety, where the data will not indicate that should happen."

Councilmember Kathie Tovo's office reached out to Brown after he called them about the stabbing in his employee parking lot. It wasn't his first time calling the councilmember's office about his concerns.

Tovo told KVUE the city council is looking into boosting police presence downtown year-round, beyond the spring festivals. She wants to speak with Chief Brian Manley and the city manager about what that would cost.

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