An agreement being considered by the Austin City Council with the Texas Department of Transportation could end up allowing police in the city to enforce trespassing laws in areas such as underneath the U.S. 290 overpass, which is home to a growing homeless population that also has some residents worried.
Currently, that specific property is owned by the TxDOT, which means that Austin police officers legally could only step onto that property if they find that a crime is being committed by someone. In the event that the agreement comes to pass, however, then officers would be able to step onto the property any time they wanted to. A member of City Council was quick to note, though, that police cannot simply arrest someone just because they're homeless.
On the other hand, the homeless population currently living underneath the overpass, as previously mentioned, does have people worried and even feeling less safe in their own neighborhoods. This is what has led to Austin City Council to begin working on an agreement with the TxDOT that would allow police to come onto the property underneath the overpass at any time. One City Council member stated that this type of agreement would essentially be a last resort for the police to involve themselves either when an individual becomes a danger to someone else or a danger to themselves.
In the end, the hope is that those currently living underneath the overpass will end up taking advantage of the many social service programs that Austin has to offer, while others believe that more shelters in the city would be a more acceptable solution, especially when inclement weather makes itself known. The general feeling for this specific solution is that those who are affected by homelessness shouldn't have to get onto a bus only to stand in line for three hours and end up not getting a safe place to stay.
A public meeting will be held by City Council to discuss the idea regarding the agreement once it has actually been drafted.
Homelessness is a known humanitarian issue in Austin, and according to the numbers, there’s some good news and some bad news regarding the battle to decrease the number of homeless individuals in the Texas capitol city.
The good news is that, according to KVUE ABC, there was an overall 25% reduction in youth homelessness, and a decrease in homeless veterans in Austin between 2018 and 2019.
The city of Austin began a program in 2017 with LifeWorks to help lower the number of homeless youth on the streets, and that program appears to be working.