"Austin is a welcoming, compassionate city and a national hub of high-tech industry. The city is thriving but at the same time, its homeless population seems to be growing. It’s a jarring juxtaposition.
"After moderating separate forums involving nearly 2,000 area residents, one thing became crystal clear to us both: There’s fierce passion on the issue but little consensus on what the problem really is and how to best address it. Some people say the City Council’s changes to the public camping ordinance encourage more people to sleep outside; others praise them as life-saving measures. Though officials insist that the numbers of homeless are holding steady, residents say they are skyrocketing.
"As professors of public policy, we know two things: The city can’t solve a problem it can’t define, and it can neither define homelessness nor identify solutions to it until it has reliable data. Right now, we simply don’t know enough to make informed decisions. If Austin wants to seriously address homelessness, that has to change."