Our neighbors experiencing homelessness are exactly that - our neighbors. We at Austin Parks Foundation want to see humane shelter be made available to these vulnerable individuals and that they be able to access the care and services they desperately need and deserve.
We know the city is facing a monumental task in finding solutions to house our neighbors and we encourage our leaders to continue to focus on real, permanent housing solutions.
While the list released this week is just the first draft of what we know will be a long and contested process, we were disappointed to see public parkland and recreation facilities make up more than half of the sites the city is considering for sanctioned homeless encampments. We remain hopeful that other empty and unused parcels of land that the city owns will be considered in future iterations of this work.
Our Parks Are Over-Loved, Underfunded
Close proximity and access to parks has proven to be imperative to our community especially over the past year, providing much-needed respite and recreation to all. With this, our public spaces are being loved to death. Although all agree parks are a critical piece of what makes Austin Austin, they continue to be taken for granted and underfunded, lacking the dollars and staff needed for adequate care and maintenance.
We do not believe that using parkland for encampments is appropriate or legal, and using public land in this way will continue to add strain to spaces that are critical to the future of our city. We encourage the City of Austin and Travis County to explore other surplus and undeveloped land as short-term options for these encampments.
Austinites who are concerned about this issue should contact their City Council representative. Find your City Council Member's contact information on our park advocacy page.