Saturday, November 13, 2004

Austin meanest city in Texas to homeless

The report this week that Austin was the "meanest" city in Texas to homeless people (reg. required to Houston Chronicle) -- the 10th meanest nationally -- should be put in perspective. Dallas has been conducting "sweeps" of homeless people and prostitutes until they had to un-mothball an old jail facility.

The report's probably right, though, that Austin deserves the prize. Our so-called liberal city council has catered to the worst of bourgeois prejudices. The high ranking was based on Austin's adoption of laws that "criminalize the condition of living on the streets," reported the Chronicle. That's not only true, but generously mild.

Exhibit A of meanness: a $250 ticket for "begging in public" given to 81-year-old homeless veteran Robert Stevenson, who was selling a newspaper generated by the House the Homeless Coalition called the Austin Advocate. The charge was dropped once it was discovered no such offense actually exists.

Reported the Chronicle:

"Dallas and San Antonio made the top 20 list and Texas was cited alongside California, Florida and Hawaii as one of the four meanest states for the homeless.

"'Austin basically made the list because there has been sort of a pattern of police harassment, harassing homeless people in the community,' said Donald Whitehead, spokesman for the Washington-based coalition.

"'There's been a number of attempts to discourage people from giving change to panhandlers and sort of targeted approaches of forcing people out,' he said." ...

"The downtown alliance is supportive of proposals to tighten existing ordinances by making it an offense to sleep outdoors in the downtown business area if the person has previously received a warning that such behavior is prohibited.

"Other proposals [city staff] presented to the Austin City Council recently would generally ban solicitation between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. anywhere in the city, forbid sitting on sidewalks or architectural features of a building, and make it a citywide offense to solicit next to a street, including a median strip."

City officials pointed to recent spending on new homeless facilities, but failed to mention they had to spend that money because they tore down the day laborers site to build the new city hall.


Tim said...

You have to be kidding me. We have a plethora of homeless shelters in this city. I can see the point that our police department is mean to homeless (they're mean to a lot more people than that). But I always see homeless people here (trust me, they're not being harassed), and we probably have one of the largest percentages of homeless in the nation.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Spoken like someone with a home.

Loren said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Loren said...

What about the American Taj Mahal for the Homeless, located on prime real estate downtown? The weather is great for street living. Street corners are plentiful. Plenty of civic action, support and representation. A perpetual rotational supply of new visitors to bum money from. Not to mention that Austin is The Live Music Capital of the World! What about that, ma-an? Did the person compiling the information for this report think of that, ma-an? LIVE MUSic cap'''....................

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Loren, have you ever been arrested for a crime that didn't exist? The report didn't address the weather or panhandling opportunities, but the government's treatment, particularly police treatment, of the homeless. The other commenter's claim above that they aren't harassed is simply false, as anyone living on the street will tell you. As for what you call the "Taj Mahal," it was built because the city council rousted the old day-labor spot to build a new city hall without forethought, then had to deal with the public backlash against the decision. The city definitely backed into building it.

BTW, I'm pretty sick of the "live music capitol of the world" schtick -- anyone who's traveled anywhere in the world knows that's not remotely true, as evidenced by cops busting heads when a band led a samba line into the street last year. Let a mariachi band play on the street for money the way they do in Mexico City and they'd get their asses whipped with batons. Austin treats its musicians like shit.

Anonymous said...

Just because some cops hassled a tejano band--BTW very ironic since tejano music hassles people in general--does not mean the city is musician unfriendly. Cops hassle. It's been that way forever. Cops simply don't stop being cops because of the music.

I got this in the mail from a fellow group member in AUstin:

"Two weeks ago, after parking downtown for a
meeting and leaving my shiny red Toyota Tundra pickup truck, a
panhandler asked me if I had 50 cents, and I truthfully replied that
I had $200 and kept walking. The next morning I noticed a linear
dent on my hood where obviously it had been hit by a board or pipe,
and I suspect it was that panhandler who did it. It will cost more
than $200 to fix, so I will leave it there until I get at least $200
worth of amusement telling the story of me "gittin' what I asked

Perhaps Austin is "meanest" because we have no laws keeping them in check. If we could curb them a bit, and lower their numbers, we wouldn't resent them so much.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Naturally, the behavior you describe is against the law already. Sorry about your car.

Anonymous said...

Grit Eater (Or whatever your handle is supposed to incite), you like quick and lazy one liners as a response to posts you lure from commenters. It's sort of shows who you are. You respond by just saying "Yeah, whatever, let me show you the hand." The truth is, you're words and complaints are the cry of a born loser. Do I trust your research? No. I trust due diligence, lifetime experience, our fair city, the council, the police and the whole community--not some empathetic and whining blogger who just uses the poor and weak to be your own symbol of imaginary good conscious. Get a life.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You said somebody trashed your car, and that "we have no laws keeping them in check." While I'm sorry somebody trashed your car, that is already against the law, and your resentment against the lack of legal restrictions against such behavior is ridiculously unfounded. I'm not sure what else you would have me say -- that all your prejudices are hereby confirmed? If that's what you want, click here.

Nice Guy said... is a search engine for finding friendly to homeless organizations, you can use any local libary for free internet access!