AUSTIN, TEXAS — Liberal policies have led to a shocking explosion in homeless camps across the state capital, with around 168 different homeless camps across the city and 10,000 people living on the streets, sources tell The Post.
The illegal camps have been visited and mapped by local filmmaker Jaime Hammonds and show how out of control Austin’s homeless crisis has become.
His map reveals the clandestine encampments have spread to a far greater extent than many taxpaying residents had previously realized — dotting the entire city, including near popular tourist destinations like Zilker Metropolitan Park.
Often hidden from public view in wooded areas, the encampments, banned by voter mandate, have become hotbeds for illegal activity and been the site of two deaths since April.
Hammonds warns that an even bigger public safety threat could be looming as the sites remain largely unregulated by
“A big fire is going to take place, and it’s going to burn up a lot of people. It’s going to happen,” Hammonds predicted.
“I’ve been warning the city about this for over a year.”
In the year and a half that Hammonds has been documenting the camps, he claims to have regularly witnessed people with mental health and drug issues use unsupervised fires for warmth and cooking.
“We have fires in these camps every year, but thank the Lord the fire department has been able to put them out very quickly,” he added.
The homeless sites are often nestled in wooded areas, surrounded by oak trees.
“It gets really hot and really dry in the summer,” the filmmaker explained. “These folks build fires, and these greenbelts, when it gets dry, it’s like a match waiting to go off.
It’s going to happen … [somewhere like] the Williamson Creek Greenbelt. There’s one way into it and one way out.”
After Hammonds recently exposed a 300-person camp in South Austin, drawing national media attention, the city representatives for that area who had previously ignored complaints about the homeless finally visited the site.
“With evidence of campfires for cooking or warmth, wildfire protection was a critical priority,” Austin Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis told Fox News.
But even after that, the city gave the homeless the option of leaving the camp, only taking those who volunteered to go to a shelter and allowing the rest to stay.
Austin residents have flooded the police department with thousands of calls about how the homeless are starting fires or illegally camping on public trails, according to local station KXAN.
“I’m terrified about it,” a pregnant Krissy Curtis told the outlet. “They’re just choosing to be illegally out here, and they’re choosing to make it dangerous for everyone that’s trying to use the trail.”
But most feel their pleas for help fall on deaf ears.
Another resident shared a photo of a homeless tent on the side of a busy road with an air conditioning unit illegally hooked up to a streetlight by a power cord stretching across the road.
“That camp has been there for six weeks despite local and state law prohibiting this,” said a disgruntled Texan who asked to remain anonymous. “Austin voters successfully made public camping illegal on May 1, 2021, yet Austin officials refuse to enforce the law.”
The city of Austin claims police do enforce the camping ban.
“When possible, the least intrusive and lowest level of force that achieves voluntary compliance has been a preferred method,” city spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo told The Post.
“This generally looks like progressive enforcement in practice [going from] verbal warning to citation to custody arrest.”
However, violating the camping ban is only a class C misdemeanor, which means the greatest level of enforcement permissible is usually a citation, the city added.
The blue city did not address how its own woke policies have exacerbated the homeless problem. With a shortage of nearly 400 officers, only emergency calls that involve life-threatening actions get patched through to 911.
All other calls, including most complaints about homelessness, are sent to Austin’s non-emergency 311 line.
During the pandemic, the previous mayor, Steve Adler, allowed the homeless to pitch tents in downtown Austin in the city’s most visited areas, like Sixth Street and Cesar Chavez Street.
Adler infamously told residents to quarantine during COVID-19, but then went on a Mexican vacation himself.
His administration also defunded the Austin Police Department in 2020 — slashing its budget by a third — only to refund it a year later, under state pressure.
Anti-cop sentiment in Austin has created a public safety crisis, where cops have quit or retired in droves, forcing detectives to pause solving cases in order to patrol the city’s streets.