AUSTIN—City Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly is requesting a “comprehensive review and audit of homeless services and spending within our city.”

Kelly highlighted the need for a review of the city’s homeless spending, strategies for coordinating services, and opportunities to receive input from the community.

“It is essential that we evaluate our current strategies, funding allocation, and the outcomes of our efforts to provide support to those experiencing homelessness. Additionally, the community deserves to fully understand what their tax dollars are going toward and how the funds are helping those in need.”

Austin appropriated a record $80.9 million towards the city’s homeless crisis in their 2023-2024 budget earlier this month.

However, the city’s homeless crisis has been ongoing since 2019, when a law against public camping was repealed, allowing the homeless to camp throughout the city. This created a more dangerous public environment and a wildfire of public backlash—including warnings from numerous law enforcement officials and a citizen-led petition with more than 126,000 signatures.

The law against public camping has since been reinstated, as residents refused to allow the encampments to continue.

However, “[t]he City of Austin has spent well over [$300 million] in taxpayer dollars in the last four years on homelessness and we have very little to show for it,” Save Austin Now co-founder Matt Mackowiak told Texas Scorecard.

Mackowiak endorsed an independent audit, stating:

“The city does not effectively measure the effectiveness of their spending and they are doing a woeful job of efficiently delivering city services to our homeless population. We need a complete, thorough, independent audit of homeless spending [since] 2019 to identify what has worked and what hasn’t.”

Meanwhile, Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey resigned Wednesday “amid growing concerns there is still not an effective strategy,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Kelly told Texas Scorecard that Grey’s resignation calls for an “open and honest evaluation of our current approach to tackling homelessness.”

One citizen responded to Kelly’s subsequent request for an audit by saying, “Based on the number of homeless folks that I see along 183 during my morning and afternoon commutes, I’d love to know where that money is going. It’s certainly not to helping these folks in any meaningful way.”

“The utter lack of visible, street-level progress on this issue, given the significant expenditure, is concerning,” said another resident.

Kelly made the request to Austin’s Interim City Manager Jesús Garza, who has yet to respond.

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government and is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.