As Austin closes out month 15 in the homelessness twilight zone, one reality stands out: The problem keeps growing.
Lest you think this is hyperbole or subjective perception, a survey earlier this year found that the city’s homeless population has increased by 11 percent over the past year. That survey was completed several months ago, meaning even if confirmation won’t be forthcoming for a while, there’s every reason to suspect those numbers have since continued to rise.
Truthfully, the city’s problems in this area predate the 2019 repeal of the ban on outdoor camping, when the all-Democrat Austin City Council decided to allow homeless individuals to stay in nearly all public spaces across the city. About five years ago, the numbers started to climb visibly, though it was limited to a few areas.
Today, however, it’s ubiquitous.
A clear example is the intersection of Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Boulevard in East Austin. A year ago, there were three or four tents at the intersection; around the turn of 2020, the number was in the high single digits and has grown steadily since.
[Note: As a point of comparison, you can see these photos of the same intersection from April.]
These photos were taken on September 29:
Here’s the thing: Obviously, this is an eyesore. Obviously, this is deeply unpleasant for those of us who live in the neighborhood.
But this isn’t good for the residents of the encampment, either.
And don’t think this is limited to this one geographic location—this is going on all over town.
Conservative author Marvin Olasky once said, “We do not increase compassion by expanding it to cover anything. Instead, we kill a good word by making it mean too much, and nothing.”
Austin’s current homelessness policies are a great example of this axiom. Not only has the council’s 2019 decision caused an increase of violent crime from and within the homeless community as well as a wildfire of public backlash and safety concerns, but there’s nothing compassionate about encouraging our most vulnerable citizens to live in this level of squalor.
Not to mention its impact on the rest of us.