On May 1, Austin voters approved the reinstatement of a ban on public camping. The City of Austin has developed an enforcement procedure, beginning with warnings, and progressing to citations or arrests during the next 60 days. Regardless of whether our neighbors are camped visibly or not, their experience of homelessness continues to exist. These human beings, and the circumstances of their plight, will still inhabit our city.
Many voters on both sides agree: Proposition B will not solve the issue of homelessness. It cannot address the economic impact on families struggling in the wake of the pandemic. It will not offer critical services like housing-focused case management, rapid rehousing, rental and utility assistance, therapy, childcare, and educational support services. It takes a strong network of social service providers who leverage every penny to make homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring. As the largest provider of shelter in Central Texas, The Salvation Army is a key player in this mission.
Through our three emergency shelters, we are addressing the problem by giving people the tools they need to become self-sufficient . We are also working with the City of Austin on the HEAL Initiative, and will continue to collaborate with the city, county, and other housing and homelessness service providers across the community to help our neighbors rebuild their health and well-being.
When the camping ban was lifted in 2019, the homeless dilemma was thrust into the spotlight, forcing residents, business owners, and city leaders to share space with those experiencing homelessness and to engage in a conversation that has been largely ignored. My hope is that those who voted for and against Prop B can harness that collective energy into a sustained effort to care for the most vulnerable members of our community, and to address the root causes of homelessness and housing instability in our city.
It will take strategic planning between our city leaders, business owners, nonprofits, faith communities, and residents. It will take time, and it will cost us, but we must be willing to invest in the long-term work of addressing the issues that lead to homelessness and ensuring that every member of our community is able to access safe and affordable housing.
We believe every community member is part of this solution. Because of this, we invite everyone to support A Day of Giving to The Salvation Army on Thursday, July 8, a unique community day of giving aired on all major Central Texas media outlets specifically supporting our programs.
The Salvation Army has been a beacon of light for struggling families and individuals in Central Texas for more than 132 years. We look forward to providing the leadership, experience, and resources needed as we all come together to solve this issue.