Abbott’s blitzkrieg on Austin homeless begins Monday

by | Nov 1, 2019 | Austin, Policy

Starting Monday, TxDot crews in Austin will begin forcing homeless people out from under state overpasses.

In a particularly cruel political stunt by the governor, Austinites without a home will be directed to local shelters that are already at capacity. Their personal belongings they can’t carry with them will be thrown away.

The forced relocation comes a month after Abbott wrote a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler setting a deadline on Nov. 1 to improve the city’s homelessness problems, or else Abbott promised, he would use “every applicable state agency” to solve Austin’s homelessness problem. 

Of course, Abbott’s performative use of state power won’t really solve anything.

In a recent opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman, head of the Texas Homeless Network Eric Samuels wrote, “the resources Abbott has vowed to send to Austin to protect the health and safety of city residents could much better be used to assist in implementing long-term fixes for homelessness, such as establishing a continuum of housing options.”

As far as using “every state agency” to solve homelessness, so far there’s no indication Abbott plans to involve the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs– the state agency actually in charge of alleviating homelessness. In fact, Abbott’s original letter to the Austin mayor detailing his master plan and boasting about his state powers doesn’t even mention the words “housing” or “shelter” once.

Instead, Abbott has prioritized sending the state’s environmental agency to monitor water quality in Austin, which he has portrayed as a city on the brink of disaster and gone as far as using old or misleading media to mislead the public.

Not once, but twice:

Abbott’s intervention comes after months of feuding with Austin over a city council vote that largely decriminalized sitting, laying or camping in public places.

Abbott’s misguided approach won’t change the fact that people don’t have homes. It won’t improve the condition of Austin’s homeless population, who Abbott might need reminding, are Texans too.

“Every time they come through here, they disrupt our whole home,” Harvest, a woman experiencing homeless, told the Texas Tribune of past and similar operations by officials to remove them from their shelters. “We lose things. And, I lost one of my favorite shoes last time, like not a big deal to you, but I can’t go out and buy a new pair.”

Photo: Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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