Phase 2 begins Sunday, June 13: City will begin issuing written warnings and citations
Individuals found to be in violation of the ban on public camping may soon receive written warnings – and repeat offenders may be given citations – as the City of Austin implements progressive enforcement of the new ordinance.
Following voter approval of Proposition B last month, it has been a criminal offense (Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine) for anyone to camp in public areas, sit or lie down in the downtown or UT campus areas, or solicit money or other things of value at specific hours and locations.
For the past 30 days, during Phase 1 of the implementation plan, Austin Police and other City departments have visited dozens of encampments across Austin to provide information to people experiencing homelessness about how the new ordinance may impact them. The objective has been to help people comply with the rules while prioritizing health and safety, and connecting people to available resources and services.
Wherever possible, residents have been provided with information about alternative options such as storing personal items, getting assessed for housing resources, and connecting to other resources through the multidisciplinary Homeless Outreach Street Teams and/or the Downtown Austin Community Court's triage case managers. APD has also created a resource guide to provide to unhoused community members.
From Sunday, June 13, when the City moves into Phase 2 of implementing the new ordinances, APD will generally issue written warnings, and may issue citations for violating the camping ordinance if they encounter individuals who have already been warned.
“Through this implementation process, APD has maintained a responsible and humane approach to providing education and outreach to those impacted by the ordinances,” said Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon. “As we progress to the next phase, I want to reiterate that our goal is to enforce the law and maintain the best health and safety for everyone in Austin.”
Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey added: “At Council direction, staff is actively pursuing options for increasing temporary shelter capacity and/or creating designated campsites in the near future. At the same time, we are maintaining focus on aggressive expansion of long-term stable housing for people experiencing homelessness through the initiatives like HEAL, creation of new permanent supportive housing resources, and partnerships with critical community organizations.”
Teams from APD will enforce the new ordinance by visiting sites and making assessments of any ordinance violations. They will be supported by members of the Austin Fire Department (AFD) who will identify fire hazards and issue warnings. Individuals residing at encampments will be advised to immediately address violations and otherwise begin preparing themselves to move.
The City's phased approach pertains only to sites that were in existence prior to the new City ordinance going into effect on May 11, 2021. Individuals who attempt to set up new camps are subject to immediate notification of violation, and enforcement action, if necessary.
Education and Outreach
During all phases of implementation, education and outreach will continue and officers will take immediate enforcement action where there are imminent and identifiable risks to public safety.
During Phase 3, from July 11 to August 7, APD will issue a citation if a written warning has already been issued. Arrests for violating the camping ordinance will only be utilized in situations where individuals refuse to vacate areas that have been deemed dangerous for the public (e.g. high risk of fire, flooding, or pedestrian/vehicle accidents).
Phase 4 will start August 8. From that date forward, an individual violating the camping ordinance may be taken into custody if an officer issues a citation and the individual does not voluntarily leave the area, regardless of whether that area is specifically deemed dangerous to health or safety.
In cases where APD does arrest an individual for violation of the camping ordinance, that person will be processed through the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) whenever possible. This means that DACC will provide individuals the ability to immediately see the judge, instead of being booked into jail, and will have access to DACC’s continuum of social service supports.
A number of other City departments – including Public Works, Austin Resource Recovery, Parks and Recreation, and Watershed Protection – continue to conduct regularly scheduled cleanings at underpasses, parks and creeks. These ongoing efforts are independent of activities related to implementation of the camping ordinance.
For more information go to: AustinTexas.Gov/PropB-Homeless.