AUSTIN (KXAN) — The property that Governor Greg Abbott’s Office offered up for homeless people to camp is officially open.
Friday, KXAN crews met two people who made it over to the old vehicle storage facility near U.S. 183 and Montopolis Drive in east Austin.
“This camp is a good place to be, like a sanctuary,” said Jose Javier Cruz. “Just want to say thank you for this place, and hopefully it can benefit everyone.”
Cruz said he and his friend, Michael Johnson, biked over to the new designated campsite. It’s about 4.5 miles from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) downtown.
Johnson said, “I think it’s amazing. I think it’s what’s needed.”
Earlier this week, before Governor Greg Abbott made the announcement about the campsite, the City of Austin and Austin Police cleared out homeless camps near the ARCH.
It was part of the Guided Path pilot program, which began in October.
The first phase, before the cleanups began, involved going out to those encampments to talk to every single person.
Ultimately, they ended up with a list of about 100 people.
“We know who all those individuals are, and we’ll follow them hopefully into housing. That’s our goal,” said Greg McCormack, Executive Director of Front Steps, a nonprofit that operates the ARCH.
City officials said of those people who gave their names:
- 7 individuals have been housed
- 2 individuals have been reunited with their families
- 3 individuals accepted respite care
- 76 individuals are enrolled or pending enrollment into appropriate programs that lead to permanent housing
- 23 individuals are not yet matched with programs for enrollment
But for those who refused to work with the providers, we asked if anyone knows where they are now.
“We don’t,” explained McCormack. “We’re still here, so we hope that they’ll come back when they’re ready, they know how to reach us, engage with us.”
Friday, some people were still hanging out in front of the ARCH, but the areas where camps used to be remained clear.
“They did something about it. I didn’t know if could be cleaned up like this,” said Reginald Fowler who has been coming to the ARCH for about a year now.
He said he had problems with alcohol. “I think the ARCH saved my life,” Fowler told KXAN.
He said he used to walk in the street to come to the ARCH because there were so many encampments on the sidewalks. He explained, “You see people out here, they have tents. If you walk by there they ask you, are you looking for drugs. You’re trying to get your mind off of that stuff, so I started taking different routes.”
Next month, Fowler will be one-year sober. With the cleared sidewalks, he said, “Maybe, more people will start coming because they see a clean place.”