Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Spreads Fake News About Austin Homelessness

The video Abbott shared was not of a homeless person—it was a mentally ill person having a serious episode. Whoops.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posted a video last week of a man repeatedly throwing metal poles at a stopped car in downtown Austin. Abbott, a Republican, wasted no time attacking Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, and his city's approach to homelessness, tweeting: "Austin's policy of lawlessness has allowed vicious acts like this."

There were a couple of notable problems here. One is that the incident initially occurred in February 2018, well before Austin implemented more permissive, less punitive policies on homelessness. After this was pointed out to Abbott (and after the account that had initially posted the video tweeted a clarification of the timeline, to its credit), Abbott failed to correct it, choosing instead to dig his heels in:

Then there's the other problem. Texas Monthly spoke to Krista Chacona, the lawyer who had represented the pole-throwing man in court, and confirmed that the man was not—and had never been—homeless. Rather, he has "developmental and intellectual disabilities." 

"He was never able to articulate to me what was going through his mind that day," Chacona noted to Texas Monthly, who added that the man was "arrested for felony criminal mischief" and "ruled incapable of standing trial." (The case is ongoing.)

Abbott was wrong to suggest this person was homeless. He was also wrong to act as if Austin's policies on homelessness had enabled violence: Damaging someone else's property is already illegal in Austin, whether you're homeless or not. But most of all, he was wrong—and seemingly serving a blindly partisan agenda—to refuse to correct the record after he himself spread misinformation. Ironically, just a day after the above tweet, he was tweeting his dismay at The Washington Post's inability to issue a proper correction.

The homelessness policy Abbott was attacking was passed in late June, when the city revoked ordinances that banned camping, sitting, and lying down in public areas. Now it's actual "obstruction" that's banned, not merely sitting or sleeping in the "pedestrian right-of-way." So homeless encampments under bridges and on sidewalks are permitted, though camping in public parks remains illegal. The city also legalized panhandling, provided it's not aggressive. And it changed a statute to specify that a homeless person must be "given a reasonable opportunity by a law enforcement officer to correct the violating conduct." (On October 17, the city council decided that camping on sidewalks should be re-prohibited but sitting or lying down would be OK.)

The narrowing of prohibited activity is intended to lead to fewer negative encounters between homeless people and police and, more broadly, to the decriminalization of homelessness. Piling up tickets and fines—or worse, jail time—when you already cannot pay for food or housing is wholly counterproductive to getting homeless people back on their feet.

Municipal and state officials are at odds about how to curb the city's homelessness problem. Despite—or perhaps because of—the city's less harsh approach, the Texas Department of Transportation will start clearing the tents, clothing, and personal effects of the homeless people who have been living under Austin's highway underpasses. The crackdown is scheduled to start this coming Monday.

NEXT: Louisville SWAT Team Looking for Pot Needlessly Terrorizes Family, Thanks to a False Tip, a Cursory Investigation, and a Detective's Nose

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  1. Austin had better knuckle up and tread very, very carefully into how they deal with their homeless situation. We know just how fast things can go downhill when paying lip service to compassion, and building an entire municipal policy around it.

    I know it’s racist to say this, but I don’t care: before implementing your bold vision to correct the injustices of the world, think long and hard about how your policies might actually make things worse.

    1. Austin had better knuckle up and tread very, very carefully into how they deal with their homeless situation. We know just how fast things can go downhill when paying lip service to compassion, and building an entire municipal policy around it.

      Austin’s City Council is not going to exercise that kind of future-time orientation. The progressive rot is far too deep there.

    2. Unfortunately, Austin has become just another Progressive Plantation like Houston, San Antonio, San Francisco, Baltimore, et. al.

  2. He may actually be homeless.

    The argument that he’s not homeless he has mental issues doesn’t make sense. I had to dig down two or three links to find this from his sister.

    ““Oh no, no. He’s not homeless. He always stayed in a group home or he stayed in the state hospital,” said Aretha. ”

    Homeless people do stints in state hospitals. Or sometimes find temporary living in group homes, or transitional housing. Chronically homeless people often get placed in housing, only to return to the street at a later time.

    1. reason has resorted to hit pieces that are so laughable in their defense of Lefty run cities.

      I can’t wait for the reason article explaining how ridiculous Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Synder was for raising alarms about Detroit’s mismanagement and impending bankruptcy.

    2. Your quote about him staying in a group home is nowhere in any of the linked articles. Care to provide a source or an admission that you fabricated it?

      If you look at the linked interview with the man’s lawyer, it indicates he has family active in his life and likely lives under the guardianship of a relative.

        1. Shouldn’t have given in to the idiot lefty. You told him where to find the link. Hes just a lazy idiot.

      1. I don’t make shit up.

      2. “” and likely lives under the guardianship of a relative.””

        Likely is an assumption. That might be good enough for you, but I’m ok with digging for something more solid.

    3. Glad you dug this up. Yes, these exact kind of shenanigans have been the way in which my town and the local media aggressively obscure the origin of the homeless people.

      “No, homeless are NOT being attracted here from around the country with our policies.”

      What turns out to be the case when you dig a little deeper, is they survey homeless people and ask them what their prior address was. They’ll answer “King County Transitional Housing” or “X/Y Group Home in Ballard!”

      See? They ‘became’ homeless in Seattle!

      It’s bullshit.

      1. That narrative cannot be true but it does get at a real problem. The mentally ill originate from everywhere. If I were guess, I’d say any microvillage of more than a hundred people has at least someone who can’t take care of themselves as an independent adult. When that community decides to be cheap shits, they in fact force other communities to deal with their problem. It is total nonsense to believe that the problem is that Seattle is sending up beacons to attract the homeless. Rather it is those communities that criminalize homelessness and seek to ignore it and force their problems on others that create homelessness. And the fact is that those communities get away with that so are encouraged to do more of it.

    4. It’s very much a Trump investigating Hunter Biden situation. Where Abbott’s not technically correct but the insistence that he’s not technically correct just reveals how much more multi-fold and layered a fuck up the system, that Adler is in charge of, actually is.

  3. “The video Abbott shared was not of a homeless person—it was a mentally ill person having a serious episode. Whoops.”

    Austin’s new ordinance should be kept or abandoned regardless of whether that one person was actually homeless.

  4. Ugh, Abbott is just terrible. Didn’t he become governor by beating reproductive rights activist Wendy Davis? Probably stole the election from her with dirty tricks like voter suppression.


    1. #TurnTexasBlue

      Why, when Texas obviously has a mental health problem, would you advocate for stopping anti-depressants from getting to Texas?

    2. He also believed a wacky conspiracy theory about Obama using troops to invade Texas… which turned out to be a fairly unremarkable training exercise, but fed into a bunch of feverish paranoid fantasies on the right.

    3. No tricks needed to defeat Abortion Barbie!

  5. >>the city’s homelessness problem

    was a complete takeover of about 6 square blocks *last year* I can’t imagine it’s smaller today

  6. But most of all, he was wrong—and seemingly serving a blindly partisan agenda—to refuse to correct the record after he himself spread misinformation.

    He was just trying to fit in.

  7. “The video Abbott shared was not of a homeless person—it was a mentally ill person having a serious episode.”

    Both can be true at the same time, sop the first statement on the pretense of knowing is a lie

  8. Good to see that Austin is turning into *yet another* Democratic-led shithole and that Reason is cheerleading for Team D’s own goals by explaining that they didn’t score on themselves, they simply “kicked the ball and it rolled away from them, bounced off the post, and came to rest in their goal.” plays.

  9. I live in the Austin area and I avoid downtown Austin at all costs. This once beautiful, unique, eclectic city is nothing but a mini Cali shit hole. Tents everywhere, garbage everywhere, homeless people on every corner, etc. It’s sad.

    1. Once it becomes unsustainable, the virus will find a new host.

    2. Truly sad that Austin has become just another Progressive Plantation!

  10. My god… Reason is really fucking dumb. First off: if the story is about a tweet then go ahead and show the tweet that is the subject. I shouldn’t have to click a link to it when the rebuttal is shown clearly in the article. Next, while I am too distant to be familiar with the context of his tweet, his criticism is over allowed lawlessness. While he might have had homelessness policies in mind, that jump needs to be justified to the reader since he criticized unlawful behaviour and showed an unlawful act.
    I can’t be bothered to look into it, but if commenters here are correct that the man may have essentially been homeless then the entire premise of criticism against Abbott has fallen apart. Reason writers are more frequently left wing narrative crafters lately than any sort of journalists.
    All that said, it is disingenuous for him to post a video from a few years ago to make a point about the current status of Austin. I’ll also throw the propaganda tag at him if he was specifically talking about homelessness while using an example of someone who isn’t homeless

  11. And now the witch hunt is all the new rates, with Abbot getting one small detail incorrect, or not because this person is in and out of shelters. Give me a break, Austin is the way it is because of the liberal city council and Adler as their puppet. And while Abbot was tweeting likely about 50 other people who were in fact homeless were chucking garbage at cars and crapping on 6th street. Nice article. Lousy, bottom-barrel journalism ignoring the facts and trying to feel relevant.

  12. According to Republicans (I’d add ‘and Reason commenters’ but there’s no longer any difference), major cities are all peaceful utopias when the mayor is a Republican.

    1. No, major cities are decent places to live when the city council(s) are not controlled by Progressives trying to create more gov’t controlled Plantations. Unfortunately, Progressives control the Democratic Party as well as many in the Republican Party establishment. Truly sad that Liberals and Conservatives no longer control their respective parties; where they both were concerned about their citizens and country.

  13. Abbott failed to correct it, choosing instead to dig his heels in”

    Conservatives doubling down on their lies, what a surprise. (And now you know how Demented and Deluded Donald managed to take over the GOP.)

    If you care soooooooooooooo much about it, I look forward to future articles here exposing the fraud known as trickle-down/supply-side Satanomics, aka Conmanitalism.

  14. If you have any interest in this subject whatsoever, please take the time to watch the harrowing, horrifying documentary made by a local television news program about Seattle’s ‘homeless’ disaster.


    In that documentary, you will see what is no doubt a violent, psychotic breakdown on the streets of Seattle by a schizophrenic drug addict. The police treat it as routine – because they have been told by their City Council that they must.

    What is called ‘homelessness’ is no such thing. It is drug addiction, mental illness, and various other social pathologies. If you can’t possibly hold a job, of course you will end up homeless. But you are not ‘homeless’ – you are pathologically disturbed in some tragic way.

  15. REason won’t be happy until Austin is finally SF South.

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