When I lived in Austin, I got accustomed to certain things. The discussions about being “green”, live music being available at almost every business, and homeless people.
If you find yourself homeless, Austin is the place to do it.
The homeless population in austin has almost a cult following due to some of the characters that you encounter.
There’s Leslie. He’s been an Austin “icon” for about as long as I can remember. He could be seen on any sunny day, riding his bike by Congress Av wearing little more than a smile and thong underwear.
“Keep Austin Weird“. It’s a saying that almost everyone in Texas is familiar with. The notion that someone like Leslie could actually run for mayor, and even get votes, proves that this is more than just a saying. It’s a mantra in that town.
There seems to be a deeply felt bond between the locals and their homeless counterparts.
One gentleman, Jerry, had a statue erected in his honor by a local artist named Bob Ratliff, when he disappeared. Apparently he was deaf and other members of the homeless community took advantage of his disability in order to rob him of his few worldly possessions; 3 shopping carts filled with items you and I take for granted every day.
The city’s tolerance towards the homeless community is nothing short of amazing. They even have designated “pan handling” hours to ensure the homeless aren’t attacked at night.
Not all of the homeless residents are colorful and creative oddities. One has recently been arrested for arson. Another beat a man to death over a pack of cigarettes.
As a project manager for TxDOT I saw the where they lived. Under bridges, in ditches, along frontage roads just barely protected by the guard rail.
I was even instructed on project to give the “residents” of one bridge 24hrs verbal notice that we would be working there and the had to collect their belongings and leave.
Yes, I had to evict the homeless from a bridge.
Living in Houston I’ve encountered far fewer homeless people. Not nearly as many of them have creative signs stating things like, “I need jet fuel for my private plane”.
Houston doesn’t have the tolerance that Austin does.
I’m not sure why there’s such a drastic difference. In all honesty, I guess it doesn’t really matter. What I do know is that if I find myself without a residence or an income, I’m moving back to Austin.