Winter Storm Highlights Austin’s Unmitigated Homeless Problem

Amid the skyrocketing cost of living under the Biden administration, cities across the United States are dealing with a worsening homelessness problem. In mismanaged Democratic-run jurisdictions, the crisis has become particularly acute.

Across California’s Los Angeles County, for example, the homeless population has ballooned from roughly 45,000 in 2015 to nearly 70,000 this year.

Even leftist enclaves in otherwise red states are facing their own dilemmas. In Austin, Texas, temperatures dropped to below freezing in the recent winter storm, highlighting a homelessness problem that has plagued the city for years.

In just the past year, the number of homeless people in the state capital jumped by more than 20% to reach a current estimate of almost 3,500.

In addition to creating specific cold-weather shelters to protect these individuals from the elements during winter months, Austin officials have approved extensive funding meant to turn hotels into homeless shelters and provide other forms of emergency housing.

The measures have not addressed the root problem, however, and locals have started sharing their disapproval in larger numbers. Voters approved a measure last year that prohibits homeless camps in public areas — and authorities have had their hands full with enforcement efforts.

Local reports indicate that the state’s Department of Transportation recently carried out a regularly scheduled cleanup of a makeshift homeless camp in south Austin. Although there are signs posted that warn it is illegal to set up such camps in public, this week’s cleanup led to some backlash.

Since many of the city’s homeless residents made their way to a cold-weather shelter and left their belongings behind, they returned to find that coats, blankets, and other items — many of which had been donated by charities — were gone.

Residents living in nearby communities are also forced to deal with the issues that arise from a growing homeless population, including one local who explained: “I’ve seen urinating and defecating into the street. We’ve seen needles. We’ve seen broken bottles and litter, stuff like that.”

It all adds up to a fundamental problem that advocates and officials say must be addressed.

Sasha Rose, who works with the group Austin Mutual Aid, said she was “horrified to realize that there were so many people that had no idea that cold weather was coming and no way to prepare for it.”