Friday, September 21, 2012

Austin police chief wants homeless services out of his backyard

This suggestion is so absurdly misguided and ill-considered that it scarcely merits comment, but Rob Patterson at the Austin Post informs us that:
Police Chief Art Acevedo feels that Austin’s homeless and such organizations as Salvation Army, Caritas and the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless that provide them with shelter and services should get out of downtown and move elsewhere. And gets needlessly sarcastic about their presence in the center city entertainment district in an obviously uninformed statement reported by Fox News 7.
"Let's put Caritas, let's put the ARCH, let's put the Salvation Army right adjacent to this huge district. It has beer readily available and booze readily available it's probably not a good mixture."
He does make a valid point that the homeless distract police from addressing other downtown crimes. But just because he says they should go doesn’t mean everyone should all salute and say, “Yes sir!”
It's one thing to say homeless service organizations should move somewhere else. But its not a serious suggestion until the chief informs us a) where he thinks they should move and b) by what authority he would compel them to do so. Past efforts to provide services elsewhere foundered when they ran up against inevitable NIMBYism. Will Acevedo now lead the charge to beat back NIMBY efforts to thwart relocating such facilities or pander to neighborhood interests who don't want them there? My money's on the latter.

A few years back before Acevedo came to Austin, a national advocacy group ranked Austin one of the "meanest" cities in America toward the homeless, with a spokesman declaring,"Austin basically made the list because there has been sort of a pattern of police harassment, harassing homeless people in the community." Acevedo's most recent comments perpetuate that perception.


Anonymous said...

Homeless folks have been in the same part of downtown for quite a while. More than 30 years ago, I remember seeing a long row of homeless men outside of what is now Elysium on Red River as I rode by in the car.

Anonymous said...

Acevedo says the problem isn't a homeless problem but a transient problem???? He goes on to say that in 1 out of 4 crimes the victim or the suspect, or both were homeless.

So, Acevedo wants to move the transients/homeless to where? Then, who will Acevedo want to eliminate next?

Anonymous said...

Even in San Francisco they don't let the aggressive panhandlers completely rule the roost.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the Chief. Get them out of downtown. Move the associated charities to Del Valle.

North Texas Cop said...

Let's move all of them right next door to your house, Scott. I'm sure you would love to have "homeless," "transients," and similarly monikered people roaming your front yard...and your back yard.

I've always found it amusing to see how even the most ardent liberals will immediately become rabid NIMBYists and advocates for private property rights after they've experienced the joy of finding a snarling, bearded psycho literally crapping, masturbating, and fornicating on their back porch. Business owners are not amused when they go out to the receiving dock and have to run off bums who are performing fellatio for dope.

The reality of such places is that they lower property values while simultaneously attracting hapless alcoholics, bums, hobos, tramps, the mentally ill, the filthy, the sexually depraved, and the deranged. It's not nice to say such things but that's the reality of what happens around such places. Surely you can understand how businesses and homeowners might not want this in their back yards?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

5:24, by what authority would you force them to move to Del Valle? Please explain how that would work.

And 7:58, nobody said let them "rule the roost," the question is WHERE the social service centers should be placed. And in San Franciso, they're downtown, not in residential neighborhoods. SF also invests FAR more in supportive housing than Austin, if they're your model.

North Texas Cop, since I live in Central East Austin, there are actually quite a few homeless folk who stay around my neighborhood - fewer since it began to gentrify, in the past few years but a non-trivial number. And as for drunks, psychos, etc., until the yuppies started moving in this neighborhood en masse about 4-5 years ago (I've been here 22 years) you couldn't get cops to deal with that stuff for anything.

Mine is the kind of neighborhood the Acevedos of the world thought the homeless SHOULD be sequestered in, and we dealt with the consequences ourselves, for the most part, occasionally with force. That was especially true in the '90s, for example, when for a while I'd take my dogs and an ax handle across the street every morning to chase junkies out of an empty house they were using as a shooting gallery. So you're spewing your stereotypes and BS toward the wrong guy. I've lived with more than my share of transients and petty criminals in this neighborhood and understand the downside well. You don't know me, pal; don't make so many assumptions.

Anyway, the question here is whether social services groups who've been downtown for decades should have to move because some guy from California who's been in Austin about ten minutes decides he doesn't want them near the police station. He wants to move them from the downtown business district (where there are few "homeowners") presumably INTO some (unspecified) residential neighborhood. To me, unless we're just not going to provide those services at all (which really isn't his call) having those agencies right next door to the police station makes more sense than any other spot you could put them.

North Texas Cop said...

"I'd take my dogs and an ax handle across the street every morning to chase junkies out of an empty house they were using as a shooting gallery."

Sounds an awful lot like the actions of police officers that you have soundly decried, criticized, and demonized over the years.  Under what authority did you carry out your early morning raids on the homeless with your illegal club and attack dogs?

"So you're spewing your stereotypes and BS toward the wrong guy. [...] You don't know me, pal; don't make so many assumptions."

Pot. Kettle. Black.  Unlike you, I didn't make a single assumption or presumption on this topic.  Not one.  

It's interesting to note that you believe Acevedo's "outsider" status is relevant to this issue even as your blog and your full-time job is supplemented and augmented by outsiders from the Northeast.'s OK for left-leaning activist attorneys from NY to fix the Texas justice system but a police chief from California needs to shut the hell up and mind his own business.  Got it.  Have a great day.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

North Texas Cop, the differences are that I didn't do so under the authority of a badge, and only took such actions after the politicians and law enforcement had basically abandoned the area and told us there's nothing they could (or in reality, would) do. The abandoned house in question was actually owned by the city, moved there from Bergstrom when they built the airport.

You're right when you say such problems need to be policed, which is why providing social services next door to the police station makes more sense than segregating the homeless to poor neighborhoods where they're out of sight, out of mind, at least for you and Chief Acevedo.

Finally, as for my job, I work for the Innocence Project of Texas. That is a state-level group that is not "supplemented and augmented by outsiders from the Northeast." IPOT gets no money from the national innocence project and is a separate group, with a separate board. Again, you don't know me and clearly don't have a clue what you're talking about, confusing your own assumptions for fact without even realizing your making them. Not the first time, either.

Anonymous said...

Grits you are still mad that Acevedo showed you to be a liar about what happened earlier in the year. You begged him not to show the video that made you look bad. I watched the clip and he didn't say he wanted it moved away from the police station he thought having it near the bar district wasn't the best place for it. He also said he wasn't sure where to put it. As for Ms Tovo the folks who got her elected ie: neighborhood groups don't want in in their part of town either and would throw east Austin under the bus in a heartbeat. Oh and that police station is 30 years old busting at the seams outdated falling apart and will be moved long before the services you talk about will be. So it's not about being near his police station. Oh and I have lived here longer than you so in my book you have been here 10 mins

The Homeless Cowboy said...

It would be totally funny if it were not so sad that people with a police state mentality actually believe that they are right and that conflicting opinions are wrong and of no consequence. You do understand of course that if you are not a police officer or part of the prosecutorial machine your are simply a criminal that hasn't been caught yet, so you couldn't possibly have an opinion that would matter to real people. So in their reality Scott we are truly of no matter, I quit trying to convince them long ago I just allow them their opinions and stay away from them. Keep up the good work Grit's and dont let the blow flies get you down.

North Texas Cop said...

Grits wrote: "Finally, as for my job, I work for the Innocence Project of Texas. That is a state-level group that is not 'supplemented and augmented by outsiders from the Northeast.'  IPOT gets no money from the national innocence project and is a separate group, with a separate board. Again, you don't know me and clearly don't have a clue what you're talking about, confusing your own assumptions for fact without even realizing your  making them."

I know who you work for, Scott.  I can read.  One of the biggest differences between you and I is that I do not post half-truths or crafty statements designed to deceive others on the Internet.  I refer you to the links below and ask if you really want to maintain that IPOT doesn't receive help from organizations, volunteers, students, researchers, and attorneys from outside Texas?  Hell, Scott, some of those kids have spent less time in Texas than Acevedo has!  Cut the bullshit, Dude.  I'm a well-educated and very well-informed critic.

"...the Innocence Project of Texas... took a major hit recently after the closure of the New-York based JEHT Foundation, which was a victim of the infamous Bernard Madoff ponzi scheme scandal [...] the  JEHT Foundation grant made up more than half of IPOT's annual funding."

"Three years ago the New York-based Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas, the Texas Innocence Network, and The Texas Observer filed suit to get access to the hair..."

TXL said...

Wow, this exchange about Austin is a very concise synopsis of the same debate going on around the country between city councils (and city police officers) and advocates for the homeless. In Lubbock the city council put a curfew criminal trespass warning on the downtown library and civic center property in order to stop overnight "camping." Seemed simple enough but then what do they do with violators? They would have to be transferred to the County Jail with the County then having to pick up cost for food housing and medical care. Until housing options are available in an area where people can walk to services and day today needs like grocery stores there still is going to be a problem. Perhaps
Acevedo needs to become part of a homeless Commission set up to address the issues with some advance planning and input from people who are actually facing homelessness. And before anyone gets too quick to criticize people are homeless I think they should first count how many of those are veterans who ended up in this position in large part because of the service that they provided to their country. No one would like the homelessness problem solved more than most of the people who are homeless.

benbshaw said...

The behavior that is deplored by your anonymous commentators is a result of the sins of omission of the leaders we elect. When was the last time you heard of a national or state legislative campaign focused on ending homelessness? The answer is never. The problems resulting from drug addiction have been addressed but only by hiring more police and building more prisons. But, has drug addiction gone down because of the billions spent on the War on Drugs? The answer is no, but instead it has continually gone up. We are members of a society that is not interested in solving problems. But we excel in demonizing our fellow man by resorting to "us versus them" thinking. Whether Acevedo has lived in Austin 10 minutes or 50 years, he is no friend of civil liberties. Built into the concept of civil liberties is the concept of Respect, respect for the intrinsic worth of ever individual that God created. Those who follow Christ know that he supped with the worst of the sinners, but directed his anger at the self-righteous described in Luke 18:11 (ISV):

"The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, 'O God, I thank you that I'm not like other people-thieves, dishonest people, adulterers, or even this tax collector."

The only time Jesus used violence was when He drove the money-changers from the temple. For those who were prisoners of the list of sins that North Texas Cop has so carefully recited, His response was Love, Compassion, Empathy, Sadness, and Mercy.

Unfortunately today, we follow neither Jesus' teachings, nor His example.

Phillip Baker said...

OK, I've been in Austin 31 years, and have heard this debate many times. There have been several plans to deal with the chronically homeless, and the NIMBY mentality blocked them. As to moving these people far away, the deal breaker is that that guarantees continued homelessness. No way to get to social services, health care, etc. Which is why ARCH and SA are where they are. The city was never willing to go all the way and provide transportation, etc.

i know a number of homeless people. There is a lot of mental illness there. Big surprise in a state that ranks at the bottom for providing access to mental health care. We use our jails and prisons for that- at a huge cost, especially compared to providing services in the first place. Does not excuse the bad behavior and is cold comfort for those who have to clean up the mess. But we bring it on ourselves. (And before some mook screams he won't have his tax dollars wasted on bums, I ask- So, how is this current policy working for you? Just like the "war on drugs"- 50 yr abject failure from any point of view, has cost trillions, ruined millions of lives, contributes heavily to homelessness. Again, how is that working out for you?)

I have read of a project in Denver that has yielded great benefits to that city. Somebody finally took a look at the real homeless and their histories, not just statistics. Turns out that about12% of the homeless accounted for the about 90% of spending on homelessness by the city. So they targeted those few- put them in apartments, set them up for healthcare, had on-site social workers to deal with issues, etc.Even when some trashed the apartment, they put them back in. The city saved like 90% of their spending on the homeless, which allowed then to put some real effort into the rest. Most homeless folk I know would do anything to get off the streets.

The problem is that people like to gripe more than address problems. They'd rather spend $15-18,000/yr housing the mentally ill in prison, than shell out far less to provide them access to treatment. So we continue stupid social policy based largely on meanness and delusion, rather than address problems facing us. And all these whiners about excessive govt spending, where are you? Hypocrites comes to mind.

That model is now being tried in other cities, and early results look encouraging.

How about we as a city, a society actually address the causes of homelessness for a change. The plan we're using now sure is not working.

Annette said...

I don't blame him! I wouldn't want them in my back yard either. Would you? They have mental problems, drugs, trash everywhere, alcohol, etc. I would be scared of a break-in to my house and murder, rape, and theft all the time. I can't of any one that would want them in their back yard! They climb my Dad's fence and have come into his house at night!

Annette said...

I drove by in my car and the homeless had dug up the stop sign on 6th street and had drug it down the street. Therefore, I T-boned another car and demolised my car since I did not see the stop sign. While I was alone in my car and waiting for the police to come to have my car towed off; the homeless men were jumping up and down on my car, laid down on the hud into the windshild and were screaming at me because one saw me put my jacket over my purse and lock my car doors! I was too scared of an attack to get out and talk to the person I had hit! Of course they all disappeared when the police came and they started planting the STOP sign back into the hole as if they were good citizens.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

NTC, you did notice the clip you cite says IPOT no longer gets that grant, right? In any event, if taking a grant in the past from a now-defunct foundation makes the group a bunch of carpetbaggers, fine. You win. IMO it's a red herrring aimed at diverting attention from the topic of the post by attacking the messenger.

9:17, I care far less about Art Acevedo than you seem to think. This issue predates him and will remain after he's long gone. Also, the thing about the bar district is pure BS. The homeless aren't buying expensive drinks at 6th street bars when they can buy beer at a corner store anywhere in Austin. In my neighborhood they routinely do so at a convenience store two blocks from my house.

TXL, Phillip, benbshaw, et. al., thanks for getting the string back on topic. If Acevedo had come out in favor of building supportive housing, adding mental health services, etc., in other parts of town, I'd praise him for it. But just forcing existing services to move with no discussion of augmenting them doesn't help the problem, just shuffles it around. I'd be in favor of ADDING services in other parts of town, and would not object to them in my neighborhood. But pushing existing services out of downtown is just an "out of sight out of mind" approach, and the chilly reception the suggestion received from city council tells you I'm not the only one who thinks it's a foolish idea.

FleaStiff said...

Lets face it, the only place free from NIMBYism is a jail or a prison!
So you either jail the do-gooders who feed the homeless or you jail the homeless on a variety of offenses both real and imagined.
Neighborhood destroying organizations such as the Salvation Army or Habitat For Humanity should be viewed as conspiracies to destroy decent neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

In WIKI, pull up:
United States cities by crime rate

Of all US cities, Austin rates 7th in crime.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You're either misreading the data or misrepresenting it, 5:43, if you're talking about this page. For violent crime rates, e.g., Austin ranks 59th among cities with more than 250,000 population, by my count.

For violent crime Austin ranks seventh among Texas cities with more than 250,000 people, with only El Paso and Plano lower. But not seventh in the nation, by a very long shot.

Anonymous said...

If in doubt, go to Wikipedia and pull up:
United States cities by crime rate

Of all US cities, Austin rates 7th in crime.

Anonymous said...

This (wiki) list was an alphabetical list so Austin was seventh on the list alphabetically, not by degree.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thank you 8:21. That's really funny!

8:09, learn to read a table! Yes, Austin begins with "A" so it's near the top of the alphabetical list, but you have to actually sort by the rates to figure out its crime ranking.

Anonymous said...

Now where would Austin be without all that Federal Funding for services that are supposedly designed to help the homeless?

hostess said...

As an employee at 6th street I totally agree