Austin religious leaders and officials rally against Prop B’s ‘gravely immoral’ homeless camping ban
AUSTIN (KXAN) – On Monday, church leaders and officials in Austin gathered at Austin City Hall to rally against a proposal that Austin voters will decide soon. They say it would only punish the city’s homeless, not help them.
The controversial proposal, Prop B, would reinstate Austin’s public camping ban: criminalize and penalize people for sitting or lying on public sidewalks and / or sleeping outdoors in and near downtown d ‘Austin and the University of Texas.
Lawyers’ complaints against the order include that Prop B does not include any help for the homeless, such as housing assistance and health services.
In a letter of opposition, 75 religious leaders condemned Proposition B, writing in part: “Prop B will have no effect on the very things it claims to change: camping in public spaces, resting on sidewalks or asking for money. These things all happened before these bans were repealed in 2019 and they will happen after. “
Prop B appeared on the May 5 ballots after the Save Austin Now group collected 20,000 signatures to take the issue to voters. The group, now classified as a political action committee, attempted to do so in 2020 – a year after the Austin city council voted to repeal the city’s ban on camping, sitting or sitting. lie down in public spaces.
“As a pastor, I cannot find an ethical argument that would justify the forcible removal of people from their camps, knowing that there is nowhere to go, knowing that many will end up in dangerous environments in the woods. and in the creek beds, ”said Rev John Elford, of the University’s United Methodist Church.
The decriminalization decision was highly polarizing and would help increase tensions over homeless camps in the city. The move even earned a threat of action from Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
“If Austin – or any other city in Texas – allows camping on the streets of the city, that will be yet another local ordinance that the state of Texas will overturn,” Abbott wrote in a statement.
The current ordinance states that the Austin police can only arrest or coerce a person who solicits, camps, sits or lies down in a public space. if they present a danger to public health or safety or block a walkway.
Reverend Crystal Silva-McCormick, one of the religious leaders who signed the letter of opposition, said in part: “Surviving poverty is not a crime… Criminalizing our neighbors for surviving poverty is gravely immoral and fails to have a holy view of what might be; namely, to take care of the needs of our neighbors and to fight against the injustices and cruelties which pushed them to poverty. “