Homelessness in Austin: A Pastoral Letter

April 8th, 2021 | April Karli

One of our Guiding Values at Austin Mustard Seed is Hospitality. Like Jesus, we desire to welcome the stranger, invite others, and remain open to receive from and give to everyone. In addition, we open our hearts, homes, and church to the lonely and those on the margins. In that light, as the pastoral team of Austin Mustard Seed, we felt that it was important to speak to a growing issue in our city.

Throughout the Bible God shows special care for those in poverty. In the New Testament Jesus continues this sentiment (Luke 6:20-21, Luke 4:16-19, Matthew 25:34-36, Mark 10:21-22, Luke 14:12-14, Luke 16:19-25, Luke 11:39-42).

We know the current way of dealing with homelessness in Austin is not ideal. We see the litter on the underpasses and grassy medians. We know that there have been fires and other safety concerns inside the homeless camps. Our own neighborhoods are near different camps in the city and we pass by them frequently. While we see the problems posed by the current situation, we reject the idea that the answer is to simply outlaw their presence.

On May 1, Austin residents will vote on Proposition B. Prop B will restore a citywide public camping ban. This ban was lifted in 2019, decriminalizing sleeping, sitting, and camping in public places. You can find out more about Prop B here.

Wherever a homeless person is sleeping, they are there because it’s the safest, driest, and most comfortable place available. They are not there because they went out of their way to be a nuisance or to cause harm.

We do not believe that this has to be a zero-sum game and want to work with the City of Austin and anyone else who wants to imagine creative and alternative solutions that will provide safety and security for all Austin residents

As followers of Jesus, while we hate to see litter and uncleanliness, we must hate for our homeless brothers and sisters to be less safe and secure even more. And we must reject any measures that simply keep the homeless population out of sight. Jesus went out of his way to see and even to touch those who had been sent out of sight by their communities. Our invitation, and our call, is to be like Jesus.

With Love,

April Karli & Shane Blackshear
Austin Mustard Seed Pastoral Team