A city as prosperous and big-hearted as Austin shouldn’t have more than a thousand people living in the streets, tucked away in drainage culverts or highway overpasses, or camped outside a shelter that can’t house them all.

Nor should the city make criminals of homeless people simply because they have nowhere else to sleep.

But let’s be clear: Revamping three ordinances that largely affect the homeless, as Council Member Greg Casar has proposed, addresses only a symptom of the larger problem. Austin officials and the community need to put their energies toward making more housing resources available — more emergency shelter beds, more supportive housing units with case managers, more affordable apartments — so people don’t have to live on the streets at all.

Austinites share a desire to see homeless people get the help they need. The community deserves a larger discussion on how we get there — not just through ordinances, but through housing options, funding priorities and better coordinated efforts to help people out of homelessness.

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