City of Austin provides update on homeless services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

People resting under US 183 in Austin. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin released a memo Friday to provide an update on its homeless services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The memo addressed five topics – access to services, hotel and motel leasing and acquisition, homeless outreach street team, underpass and encampment cleaning, and communications.

Access to Services

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department says public showers and restrooms along city trails are set to remain open until further notice. PARD has also opened five Controlled Shower Access sites.

These sites are for health and hygiene and will be made available Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.:

  • Gus Garcia Recreation Center – 1201 E Rundberg Ln, Austin, TX 78753
  • Austin Recreation Center – 1301 Shoal Creek Blvd, Austin, TX 78701
  • Barton Springs Pool – 2131 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78746
  • Bartholomew Pool – 1800 E 51st St, Austin, TX 78723
  • Springwood Pool – 13320 Lyndhurst St, Austin, TX 78729

Two 24-hour public restroom facilities will be made available at Fourth Street and Trinity Street, and Sixth Street and Brazos Street.

Libraries will be closed until further notice, but the Terrazas Branch Library and the Little Walnut Creek Branch Library are allowing for access to restrooms from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all week.

Mobile hygiene clinics will be made available around the city thanks to the Other Ones Foundation. These clinics include shower stalls with sinks and toilets, hygiene supplies and basic first aid. They will also include some food as long as supplies last. Below is the schedule for these clinics:

  • Monday: Sunrise Community Church at Ben White Boulevard and Menchaca Road.
  • Tuesday: First Baptist Surface Lot at Ninth Street and Trinity Street.
  • Wednesday: Interstate highway 35 and Cesar Chavez Street.
  • Thursday: Under I-35 across from Hancock Center (Directly across the service road from Community Care).
  • Friday: TBD (Still looking for a good spot in the Cameron/183/290/St Johns area)
  • Saturday AND Sunday: Camp Responsible Adult Transition Town (RATT), the State sanctioned campsite.

The Downtown Austin Community Court will stay open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.to provide essential services, such as service continuity for existing clients, connection to basic needs for walk-in clients, and opportunities to maintain hygiene for individuals using the restrooms.

The City of Austin is constantly updating a list of resources in the city and how to access them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Services and Community Coordination

The City of Austin is working with a consultant to finalize screening protocols and health needs related to COVID-19 in the homeless community.

Additionally, Austin Public Health and Travis County Health & Human Services are creating the Social Services Branch of the Emergency Operations Center.

This new branch will feature task forces including City Services, County Services, Homelessness, Food Access, Behavioral Health, Seniors, Group Home, Faith Based, Child Care, Customer Client Services, and Equity.

Hotel and Motel Leasing and Acquisition

Austin’s Office of Real Estate Services finalized a lease agreement with the Crown Plaza.

This lease includes 292 rooms for the homeless community. The space will be used for quarantine and isolation.

Additionally, the Rodeway Inn, which has 87 rooms, is set to be closed April 17. The Office of Real Estate Services is looking into more hotels for lease.

Homeless Outreach Street Team & Emergency Medical Services Community Health Paramedics

HOST has been performing various tasks and fulfilling numerous roles since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Providing COVID-19 information based on APH sources to the homeless community. This information emphasizes the importance of social distancing and hygiene.
  • Addressing inaccurate information and rumors about COVID-19.
  • Findong resources that can address food, water and hygiene needs for Austin’s homeless community.
  • Coordinating with agencies, businesses and individuals that wish to donate food, water or other basic necessities.
  • Integral Care staff is working from home so HOST is working to distribute phones so Integral Care can maintain contact and continue to serve to homeless community.
  • Assisting Integral Care’s Programs for Assistance in the Transition from Homelessness (PATH) team while staff are working from home.
  • Work with homeless communities outside downtown such as the major corridors along Ben White Boulevard and U.S. Highway 183.
  • Providing as much access to mental health and medical health care as possible.

Underpass and Encampment Cleaning Process and Coordination Efforts

Cleaning services have not been suspended and will continue twice a week. Austin Resource Recovery will continue cleanup at the following Purple Bag sites:

  • State Highway 71 and Packsaddle Pass.
  • Cesar Chavez Street and Pleasant Valley Road (near the IBC Bank).
  • U.S. 183 and Burnet Road.
  • U.S. 183 and Cameron Road.
  • Seventh Street and Gonzalez Street (under the bridge).
  • State Highway 71 and Menchaca Road.
  • State Highway 71 and Burleson Road.
  • Pleasant Valley Road and Riverside Drive (located in the median near the McDonald’s).
  • I-35 and Airport Boulevard.
  • U.S. 183 and Oak Knoll Drive.
  • The location at Terrazas Branch Library will receive daily cleaning.

Additionally, the Watershed Protection Department’s contractor, WorkQuest, is pausing all encampment cleanup projects as the Department reevaluates its essential functions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communications

The Homelessness Priority Communications Team within the Communications and Public Information Office is working to continue to engage with the homeless community within the context of the rabidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

HPCT is re-purposing the City of Austin’s homelessness site to provide targeted information and access to resources. They are also distributing fliers with educational information through out the city as well as creating a map for those experiencing homelessness to find basic necessities.

The communication team is also working to engage with the broader public. they are working on plans to let the Austin community know how they can still donate to help those experiencing homelessness in the city.


More information as well as the full memo on the updates to Austin’s homeless services during its response to COVID-19 can be found on the city’s website here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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