Lives Do Matter!
The local authorities in Austin, the capital of second largest US state (by both area and population) of Texas, is all set to turn a hotel into a permanent shelter for Unhoused People by using diverted Police funds…
The Austin City Council recently voted to purchase a hotel for housing dozens of chronically unhoused people. According to sources close to the Council, the concerned authorities would use money allocated for the city’s Police Budget to provide the basic necessities for those people. Earlier in August 2020, the Council had decided to cut nearly USD 100 million from the Police Department’s budget. Later, it set aside USD 6.5 million for financing permanent supportive housing and other necessary services for the unhoused people.
Senior Council Member Gregorio Casar has mentioned that the authorities would turn the hotel into a 60-unit permanent supportive housing complex for the homeless. “In the wake of ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests this summer, we made a significant cut to policing dollars and reinvested that in things like this,” added Casar, who had initiated the effort to cut police funding.
Casar further stressed that the City Council would soon start talks for acquiring the Texas Bungalows Hotel & Suites in District 7. The hotel, having 65 rooms (41 with kitchenettes), onsite laundry, and a front desk with controlled entry, had been built in 2018. According to the Council member, the City Council will convert some of the rooms in order to add more office and common space, such as a community kitchen, leaving the building with nearly 60 permanent supportive housing units.
On behalf of the City Council, the Homeless Services Division of Austin will sign a contract with non-profit service providers for covering the operating costs and setting up the wraparound services for residents, including case management, support for mental health or substance use issues, workforce development programmes, and job placement services.
The City Council’s newest member, Mackenzie Kelly, is of the opinion that the proposed move of the Council would resolve the crisis of homelessness in the city. “We have a homelessness crisis, but treating every proposal as an out-of-context emergency is not great policy and silences stakeholders. We need to provide housing to the unhoused, but we can do so in a way that creates good feelings throughout the community… We want to educate the community on this important project and continue to get feedback,” said Kelly during the Council meeting. As per the last census, Austin had around 2,500 homeless people in 2020.
In 2015, Catching Lives, an independent charity aimed at supporting the rough sleepers, homeless and vulnerably housed in Canterbury and East Kent in Britain, had expressed serious concern over Homelessness, stating that it was a wide-spread problem that could lead to high vulnerability and social exclusion. In a report, Catching Lives clearly mentioned that a compassionate approach towards the homeless would be crucial to deal with the issue. It also requested the Global Community to take a tough love approach in order to encourage motivation and independence to help people re-build their lives.
While issuing orders on homeless shelters and also on the 2013 Mental Health Care Bill, the Supreme Court of India acknowledged that Homeless Peoples’ rights to needed care, advising the Government to reverse official hostility to people on the streets. According to Housing and Land Rights Network, more than 48,700 families were evicted from their homes because of demolition drives in urban India. Many of these were facilitated by Supreme Court rulings. In India, the Police still use Beggary Laws, enacted in the 1960’s, to detain homeless in remand homes.
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