AUSTIN (KXAN) — As plenty of people complain about the homeless population becoming more brazen near their homes, Austin is getting a progress report on its efforts to address homelessness.
In southeast Austin, a hike and bike trail near the Jimmy Clay Golf Course has been gradually turned into a homeless encampment. Krissy Curtis lives right by it.
“It started with one woman. Then it became two, and now I’m not even certain how many there are,” she said. “I just worry.”
After several fires and a recent gun incident, Curtis believes things have gotten so bad she doesn’t even walk on the trail anymore.
“We heard gunshots, and then a man ran out, and then the homeless woman came out,” she described. “That was actually when I became the most frustrated with the situation.”
Pregnant with a baby boy on the way, she fears for her son’s safety.
“I am terrified about it,” Curtis said.
KXAN asked the Austin Fire Department if it’s responding to fewer fires compared to last year. AFD Assistant Chief Brandon Wade said the number of calls have been constant.
“You really deal with a lot of unknowns when it comes to homeless encampments,” he said. “If it’s under a bridge or if it’s deep within a greenbelt, we have to try to access it.”
As the calls keep coming, it’s put a strain on valuable emergency resources.
“There could be another emergency within their district, that they may be unavailable for,” Wade said.
There’s also evidence that problems in public parks are growing.
So far this year, 311 calls about homeless encampments have dramatically increased from 548 through the first four months of 2021 to 1,471 calls during first four months of 2022.
This comes after Austin voters overwhelmingly approved the public camping ban’s reinstatement.
At Brook Crest Neighborhood Park, Curtis just wants the city to enforce its own rules and clear the camp near her home.
“They’re just choosing to be illegally out here, and they’re choosing to make it dangerous for everyone that’s trying to use the trail,” she concluded.
The City of Austin is eligible to receive $11.4 million of HOME-American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to be spent on various projects with the goal of reducing homelessness and increasing housing stability.