Following a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals - which ruled that it was unconstitutional to prosecute individuals simply for sleeping on the streets, saying it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment - city officials have announced that they will be re-evaluating their homelessness ordinance.
The current law, which is stated under Austin City Code Section 9-4-14 and is referred to as the "No Sit/No Lie" ordinance, states that anyone who is homeless can end up being ticketed, arrested, or even jailed if they sit or lay down in certain public areas. Exceptions are provided for disabilities and medical emergencies.
The decision from the court does not necessarily affect Austin directly, but the city council knows about the recent court ruling and are working on weighing various changes to the ordinance itself. Others areas of Texas such as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio also have ordinances in place similar to Austin, which prohibits forms of either sitting or sleeping in certain public areas.
The recent ruling was in favor of six homeless individuals, who sued Austin back in 2009 over an ordinance that prohibited sleeping in public areas. The court ruled that the ordinance violated the 8th Amendment of the Constitution due to punishing acts that are consequential of homelessness.
Last year, an audit discovered that ordinances in Austin didn't do much at all in order to help their homeless population, as well as that issuing citations related to it ended up using city resources without much benefit and harming those receiving them.
The audit further recommended looking at whether the ordinances should either be revised or repealed.
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.