This is in response to this article:
I strongly disagree with your article on Affordable Housing. Why? Because I believe political blogs like Burnt Orange should be encouraging community dialogue - not encouraging Austin's current atmosphere of bullying.
You see, there is a three-fold problem when it comes to Austin's current situation with the homeless and affordable housing. Unfortunately, the so-called 'homeless advocates' in Austin will not talk about these aspects of the problem, nor do they allow any discussion about these aspects.
When anybody dares to raise these three points, these 'advocates' immediately shut down the discussion by either accusing the person of "not being compassionate" or being one of those "not in my backyard" people. There's a name for this kind of behavior. It's called bullying. And frankly, I am sick of it and I am sick of the media and the blogs in Austin protecting and encouraging the
So, since Burnt Orange refused to talk about the three aspects of the homeless and affordable housing problem in Austin, I am going to raise those points
Point 1: Why does compassion stop at 7th Street?
I live in 78758, the city's 4th biggest zipcode. The city's 2nd biggest zipcode (78753) is immediately east of me and the city's 7th biggest zipcode (78759) is directly west of me. In fact, the city's demographer places the population center of Austin at 183 and Burnet.
You would think that City of Austin and the homeless advocates would provide outreach and services for the homeless and those who need affordable housing somewhere in our area, right? But all the services are centered around the ARC, which is downtown at 7th Street. Where have all the talks and discussions about these issues occurred? At the ARC or at City Hall.
Point 2: Why is the advocacy in Austin limited to downtown's homeless?
There are three groups of homeless in Austin. The first are the poster children of the homeless ‘advocates’ - downtown's homeless. These are the ones that get the services and are the focus of every program and outreach in our city.
But there are two other groups of homeless in Austin.
The first are the marginally homeless. The marginally homeless are generally those either on a fixed income; or who have children, but don't have a job that adequately covers the cost of raising children. These people struggle to make the high rents that are so common in Austin and are caught in a cycle where they can make the rent for a few months, then end up having to fall back on temporary arrangements with friends and/or families, then go back to another apartment for a few months. The real losers are the kids and our schools. The kids of the marginally homeless often bounce through several schools during any given school year, putting them behind academically. Meanwhile, our schools wind up losing money because these kids don't stay in any one school throughout the school year.
The other group is the hardened homeless. There are criminals who are actively taking advantage of the fact Austin's legal system offers loopholes for the homeless. These loopholes were created with good intention, but have also created a whole subculture of criminals who have invaded the parks and green spaces throughout the city and are now preying on local neighborhoods.
Point 3: Why is no big picture thinking when it comes to Austin's homeless and affordable housing?
We live in a city that will give tax breaks to corporations, but will not consider giving tax breaks to an apartment owner in exchange for them lowering the rent on a certain percentage of their units. We live in a city where City Hall will absorb the cost of the fees and staffing hours to run a developer's plan through zoning, but will not insist that developer also provide a certain percentage of affordable housing in their project. We live in a city where we will hand out zoning concessions and lay the sewage lines for free for new hotels, but we won't insist those same hotels provide stop gap housing for families that are in crisis and need shelter for a couple of days
I will admit it - I personally voted 'no' for the affordable housing bond package.
I voted 'no' because I don't want my tax dollars sent downtown. I want those dollars spent, instead, where the greatest needs are.
I voted 'no' because I don't want more programs that discriminate against who they will help. I want programs that willassist the marginally homeless, and that will work with our schools and our families to ensure all of Austin's kids get a fair chance and a good education. I also want programs that will provide intervention and solutions for the hardened homeless while driving down the property theft and burglaries these criminals engage in.
I voted 'no' because I am tired of the current attitude down at City Hall that the entire bill for these type of programs should come solely of homeowners' pockets. I believe that we all have a moral and ethical obligation to help those in our city who may be facing socio-economic challenges, and I want the corporations and developers and hotels doing business in Austin to start fulfilling their obligations.
Finally, I voted ‘no’ because I don’t believe in bullying, but I do believe in my community. I believe my community is compassionate and supports affordable housing – and that’s not what the homeless ‘advocates’ are offering us.
editor, North Austin Community Newsletter