The Austin City Council identified homelessness as the top priority indicator in Austin’s Strategic Direction 2023 and adopted the Austin Action Plan to End Homelessness. The Action Plan aligns the City, County and service providers to create a holistic system of care for individuals experiencing homelessness that is more efficient and effective. Additionally, the City Council adopted Resolution 20190620-184 directing the City Manager to explore a variety of options to address homelessness.
Resources and Information about Homelessness
The City created and is in the process of hiring a Homeless Strategy Officer to focus on homelessness across the city. Additionally, the City’s Office of Innovation’s i-team has worked with individuals and partners across the City of Austin to understand homelessness in Austin from the perspective of people living those experiences. The team has also examined some of the public and non-profit response systems that are addressing this growing crisis.
If you are a person experiencing homelessness, at risk of being homeless, or looking for more information about the history and causes of homelessness, please visit: Solve for Homelessness
Changes to City of Austin Ordinances
On June 21, 2019, City Council amended three ordinances:
- Camping in Public Area Prohibited
- Solicitation Prohibited (now known as Aggressive Confrontation)
- Sitting or Lying Down Prohibited (now known as Obstruction)
Questions & Answers about the Revised Ordinances
The City Council made several revisions to these three ordinances. These following questions and answers do not cover all revisions and provide a general guide to understanding some of the changes.
How are the revised ordinances different from what we had before?
Generally, the previous ordinance(s) prohibited the act of camping, sitting, or lying down in certain public areas. The amended ordinances, which took effect on July 1, 2019, focus primarily on behaviors by continuing to prohibit aggressive conduct, behavior that unreasonably obstructs public property, and behavior that endangers public health or safety. However, the amended ordinances decriminalize a range of non-threatening or non-hazardous behavior so people experiencing homelessness may encounter fewer difficulties in finding permanent housing.
Private property owners may still prohibit camping or sleeping by persons on their property, including outdoor common areas.
Information about the ordinance revisions regarding panhandling is offered below:
Can people panhandle wherever they want?
No. Panhandling on private property continues to be governed by state trespassing law.
In terms of public property, the solicitation ordinance was changed to prohibit aggressive confrontation. Under the revised ordinance, peaceful solicitation that does not violate any other laws is generally allowed on public areas like sidewalks. However, the law prohibits any kind of aggressive confrontation, regardless of whether the person is soliciting.
Can people now camp wherever they want?
No. Camping on private property is not affected by the city ordinance and continues to be governed by state trespassing law. Additionally, camping is not allowed on public grounds and greenbelts that are designated as parkland or City-owned buildings governed by building security rules.
Camping on sidewalks continues to be prohibited if the person is obstructing the passage or if the person is presenting a health or safety risk. Other laws apply that prohibit pedestrians from being present illegally in a roadway.
Can people now sit or sleep on sidewalks?
Under the amended law, people are no longer prohibited from sitting, lying down, or sleeping on sidewalks in the downtown area unless they are blocking a doorway or pathway, or they are presenting a health and safety risk of any kind.
What should I do if I believe someone is a threat to public health and safety, including themselves or others?
If you believe the health and safety of any individual, including yourself, is at risk, please call 9-1-1.
For any non-emergency situations, please call 3-1-1.