Around the start of the pandemic, tents have been put up around Austin as homeless camp sites, to prevent people from sleeping on the streets. Tents are all over the major traffic areas in Austin. Yet, people are still sleeping on the streets…
Austin has been working on solidifying a few hotels to house the homeless. Recently it became official — Texas Bungalow Suites and potentially the Candlewood Suites (city council will vote in a few days) will house the homeless with possibly a few more options. Austin is not the only city that is offering hotel rooms for homeless, and Austin is also not the only city that has protestors opposing this idea.
Throwing money at an issue will resolve the problem.
This marketing misconception will never be true. Bank rolling an issue in a company does not create change or resolve the problem. At best it can help an issue but there has to be a well conceived strategy and ideas behind the money.
There are two sides of the coin on the homeless hotel debate.
One side of the coin is that there is a huge need to prevent people from sleeping on the streets especially with their children. Maybe they've lost their job in the pandemic and have depleted their minimal help from the unemployment office to no fault of their own. Or maybe a spouse is tired of being abused verbally and physically. I hope there is not anyone that would argue that we should all pitch in collectively and help those individuals get back onto their feet.
On the other side of the coin, I need to setup a back story in order to explain. When I was attending UT for graduate school, one of the things I regularly did was take homeless out to eat. I used to give a spare dollar or coins if I had it on me, every time that I could. Until I saw one of the guys I gave money to earlier in the day pulling up at an ATM at Wells Fargo at 4am on his Harley. Man, did I ever feel bamboozled. I changed my donation strategy but still strived to earn karma points.
Moving forward, panhandlers would ask me for money, and I would politely say, "I won't give you money but I'll take you to eat. I'm actually going right now, feel free to join." Very few took me up on the offer as they just wanted money for a motel room that night (or drugs once they made enough money for the motel), but occasionally I could convince them that it was ok to join me. Upon conversing with the individuals I would ask them the ultimate question, "Why are you homeless?"
A big portion of the responses that I've heard was that they refused to conform to governmental rule. I get it. The bickering back and forth between two parties is exhausting. The currency system in a capitalist society seems as if it is rigged and you are doomed from the start. But to sleep on the streets? That part I never understood. Personally, outside of spending a few nights in a car unsure of which path to take in life, if I were forced into a permanent lifestyle of homelessness, I'm going to live so far deep into the woods that you would never even see my face.
An occasional response from my lunch dates, would be an admittance of the addiction to drugs. A lot of people are addicted to drugs in fact, my family offers housing to those in recovery from addiction, but to be homeless over a drug is just an extreme addiction. Those people need psychological help with the issues they are struggling with, in addition to a clean place to stay. They are human beings.
I've taken donuts that are being thrown away at Dunkin Donuts and delivered them to 7th and Trinity. I've bought subs from Subway (when they do the buy one get one promotion) and cut the foot long into 4 sandwiches and set up downtown to give homeless a meal for the night. I keep water bottles in my car and hand them out at stop lights when I can. I also realize, this isn't helping fix the issue. If you have a wound gushing blood, Neosporin will not be the remedy. As is throwing money at this open wound. City Council has to discuss the underlying issues and discuss solutions.
Moving forward to City Council's major issue at hand: They are struggling with communication. Taxpayers footing some of the bill (also taking away from AustinPD) want to know the exact remedy that the City is planning with their money. City Council of Austin is failing to communicate what the resources will remedy. At this point, based on all of the news coverage, it is just a place to stay for the night. Newsflash, there are more people homeless than rooms available...
Here are some questions that would be best to talk about… AND COMMUNICATE the answers with the residents:
1. How will you help someone combat a drug addiction? (Will you drug test?)
2. Will counseling be offered? To what extent?
3. Who will get priority to the rooms?
4. Will you be offering job placement?
5. How will you prevent the abuse of the resources that are being provided?
Talk about those issues and communicate that to the citizens in Austin. A lot of people that I've talked to, think that the City of Austin is throwing money just to give the homeless free room and board.
To be clear, I'm for the hotel for homelessness as long as it includes progressing amenities to help individuals heal, and a housing community to help repair those who desire the assistance to be repaired.
My Answers to the Above Questions
Drug test and Breathalyzer will be required and any failed test will require rehab first. (Rehab system needs help!)
Counseling offer will be varying, from life, drug addiction and extensive psychological counseling that encourages self-love.
Parents with children will always be first.
Yes, job placement with regular check ups.
Create a report card system that shows individual progress.
Marketing Strategy for Austin City Council
It starts with good ideas. Plan and prepare those ideas with a strategy. And then back those with money. Communicate the effectiveness to all publics involved.