Is Austin on the verge of a homeless crisis?

On June 20, the Austin, Texas, city council voted to legalize camping, sitting and lying in public spaces within the city.

Citizens and business owners were outraged by the increased presence of homeless persons leaving trash as well as creating health hazards and reportedly scaring away patrons.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler admitted to FOX Business he didn't anticipate so many people to start camping in public after the ordinance was passed.

Four months later, after the wave of backlash, they clarified the rule to ban camping on sidewalks.

Adler spoke to FOX Business' "Bulls & Bears" on Thursday about the decision.

"We didn't create more people experiencing homelessness, but it is a challenge that is more visible now."

- Steve Adler, Austin Mayor

He said Austin was motivated by not wanting to put homeless people in jail if they were not committing a crime or being a nuisance. He said, instead, they want to move them into shelters.

"We do have more people now that have moved out of remote places, hidden places and they're under overpasses, they're doing that because it's a safer place for them to be," Adler told FOX Business. "It's a way for us to make sure that they get health attention in ways they couldn't before."

Adler believes this policy change helps them move the homeless into homes in a way they could not do before.

However, with the tech industry booming in Austin and housing costs skyrocketing, homelessness might be a reality for more people than before.

"The single most important factor that correlates to the level of homelessness is [an] increase in housing prices," Adler said.

"What I know is we have six times fewer people experiencing homelessness than San Francisco, and I want to make sure our city doesn't get to San Francisco or LA or Portland or Seattle."

- Steve Adler, Austin Mayor

He admitted the city is trying to create a better housing supply, too.

Adler said the way to deal with the homelessness challenge is to tackle it while it's still a small problem. He said he's speaking to other mayors in larger cities to try to learn from their missteps.

"I asked those cities, 'What do you wish you had done six years ago, eight years ago, 10 years ago that you did not do,' and I think that's the lesson we can learn from these other cities," he said.

According to White House data, 47 percent of the American homeless population can be found in Calfornia. The Golden State is also home to four of the top five cities with the highest rates of unsheltered homelessness, with the fifth being Seattle.


The Department of Housing and Urban Development statistics show San Francisco has the highest rate of unsheltered homelessness at 60 per 10,000 people.