As Austin enters year five of its extended homelessness saga, one city council member is taking matters into her own hands.

Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly, the lone conservative on the dias and an outspoken opponent of the city’s current policies, led a group cleanup of an abandoned encampment in her northwest Austin district this past weekend. Kelly led her efforts at the request of a local homeowners association.

“It’s taken significant effort but we couldn’t have done this without our wonderful volunteers and the help of some of our non profit partners. We made a significant dent but the work will continue,” posted Kelly.

“This experience has reinforced my dedication to serving our district and has inspired ongoing discussions about sustainable and humane solutions to the challenges of homelessness. I am hopeful for the future and eager to continue these efforts, ensuring that our community remains a safe, welcoming, and caring place for all its residents,” added Kelly.

While welcome, Kelly’s private efforts reflect the city’s ongoing failure to enforce its ordinance and state law. 

In 2021, following a disastrous 2019 legalization of homeless camping in nearly all areas of the city, Austin voters reimposed the previous ordinance by referendum. That same year, the Texas legislature enacted a law prohibiting homeless camping statewide.

Despite rebukes at the local and state levels, Austin’s enforcement of these laws has been spotty at best. While homeless encampments have largely disappeared from the central city and university campus areas, they have migrated to the city’s outskirts (eg. areas like Mackenzie Kelly’s district).

Mackenzie Kelly is up for re-election to a second term this fall.

Adam Cahn

Adam is a longtime conservative activist and an avid UT and Yankees fan.