Dear D5 Neighbors,
Our letter this week brings hope that many of you are now (or soon) back in your homes lit by electricity, with running water that doesn’t need to be boiled, nor toilets that need to be flushed using buckets of snow. Like many of you, we worried with and about the safety of our children, our partners, our parents, and our community.
We know that some of our housed community members still lack these basic utilities and that this ongoing crisis disproportionately impacts lower income housing and also people of color. We know that for many of our unhoused community members and our city’s emergency workers, this past week was beyond hard, with vulnerable people hit hardest by the effects of the storm.
Supporting Each Other
And, this past week we also saw neighbors supporting each other and community members providing mutual aid. Kudos to Council Member Kitchen for contacting the Travis County Democratic Party and developing a phone banking system for contacting Travis County seniors (of any party) to identify their food, water, and medical attention needs. Many others hosted people in their homes, drove people on icy roads, and provided water and food to those in need. Visible congregations of unhoused people, only possible because public camping is currently legal, allowed our unhoused neighbors to be located and helped. Allowing public camping unquestionably saved lives. As this most recent crisis fades, let’s continue our commitment to support and solidarity with them.
On March 4, City Manager Cronk is expected to return to City Council with a plan to “disallow” camping in certain areas (under Council Member Kitchen’s HEAL initiative). Also, in May, registered Austin voters will be voting on Prop B, which proposes to criminalize camping, resting, and asking for money (more details under Debunking Disinformation). Organizing opportunities will follow!
Efforts to criminalize homelessness divide our community and undermine community-led efforts to make progress on housing, criminal justice, and racial justice issues. Just as state leaders’ initial reaction to the winter storm crisis was to try and divide citizens on political grounds rather than solve problems and help people, the efforts to re-criminalize homelessness are meant to divide us, rather than solve problems and help people in need. It was organizing, led by Council Members Casar and Harper-Madison that put people first and showed the power of our community. Our community depends on us, and you can help!
Connecting Racial Justice with Justice for Our Unhoused Neighbors
D5 for Black Lives is hosting a community meeting to talk about homelessness and racial justice next week on March 2 from 6-7pm. This virtual event will feature panelists from BIPOC-led community organizations on the frontlines of the struggle for a more equitable Austin. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of the issues and practical ideas for taking effective action.
Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions during the event, but if you want to submit your question ahead of time for the moderator to read aloud, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 2 at 4 pm.
Yours in struggle,
D5 for Black Lives
New! Debunking Disinformation
Each week D5 for Black Lives will bring you helpful facts to fight false narratives.
In May, registered Austin voters will be voting on Prop B, a reactionary initiative to criminalize camping, resting, and asking for money. The specific ballot language is listed below. In the words of Save Austin Now co-founder, Matt Mackowiak (who led the initiative), this proposal isn’t intended to “fix the problem of homelessness.” As he says, it’s about taking “their city back” from people who they do not see as part of their community. Some say that Austin’s progressive policies are enticing unhoused people to move here from other states. This is completely false. In 2020, 63% of people experiencing homelessness in Austin first experienced this in our city and 82% first experienced homelessness somewhere in Texas (ECHO 2020). We strongly reject this idea that our unhoused neighbors are not from nor part of our community. Vote NO on Prob B!
Proposition B: Shall an ordinance be adopted that would create a criminal offense and a penalty for anyone sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in and near the Downtown area and the area around the University of Texas campus; create a criminal offense and penalty for solicitation, defined as requesting money or another thing of value, at specific hours and locations or for solicitation in a public area that is deemed aggressive in manner; create a criminal offense and penalty for anyone camping in any public area not designated by the Parks and Recreation Department?