Christopher Paul hasn’t felt a police officer tapping at his foot in more than a month — the tap, tap, tap that usually meant he was about to get another citation that he was never going to pay.

Living on the streets for five years after he lost his graphic design job, Paul has been having undisturbed nights since the Austin City Council and mayor eased restrictions on “public camping” this summer, a move that liberal lawmakers billed as a humane and pragmatic reform of the criminal justice system. But the change has drawn the ire of Republicans and local business owners who decry it as a threat to public safety and the local economy, exposing a partisan clash over how to manage poverty and affordable housing in America’s cities.