The Austin Police Department arrested three protesters Saturday while they were participating in a weekend effort termed “Tent City” to shed light on the issues facing the homeless in Austin.
Police said they arrested Luke Smith, Joshua Pineda and transient Jeremy Krutz. All three were charged with criminal trespassing and have been released on bond, police said.
Organized by the Ending Homelessness Working Group, a subsection of the Occupy Austin movement, event officials said Tent City involved protesters traveling to various locations throughout the city and setting up makeshift camps to illustrate the struggle transients often experience. Encampment locations included a former Home Depot, a field, a vacant lot, the Victory Christian Center parking lot in North Austin and the plaza of the Travis County Jail. Police followed the roughly 30 protestors, some of whom were transients, who participated throughout the Tent City effort.
Tent City co-organizer Peter Cooper said there are not currently enough housing resources available for Austin’s growing homeless population, forcing Austin’s transients to search the city for a place they can legally sleep.
Tent City participants traveled to five different encampment locations on both city and private property between Saturday and Sunday afternoon before retreating Sunday around 5 p.m. to prepare for a similar initiative that will occur Wednesday, on what has unofficially been declared World Homeless Day in advocation of homeless rights, according to the event’s website.
Cooper said city regulations on what areas can be occupied after certain hours are confusing, and this makes it difficult for the homeless to know what city property they can legally sleep on.
Some said the Tent City movement illustrated this confusion because its organizers and participants were unsure of the legality of their actions throughout the weekend effort.
Cooper said Tent City’s efforts Saturday afternoon to create camps may be breaking the law, but he is unsure because of the law’s unclear nature on when and where people can occupy public spaces.
Tent City participant Valerie Romness said she believes a permanent Tent City is necessary to give the homeless a place they know they can legally go until city resources can catch up with their needs.
“We need a Tent City, because the shelters are full,” Romness said. “Women and children are sleeping in cars in parking lots and on the streets. Tent City is a temporary transitional housing project while people are waiting for a job or affordable housing to be built.”
Cooper said he hopes Wednesday’s effort leads to city action, including the creation of more housing resources for the homeless and clearer legislation about where they can sleep.
Printed on Monday, October 8, 2012 as: Police arrest protesters