Austin begins moving 60 people camping in downtown area to temporary bridge shelter

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin says it’s working Thursday and Friday to clear out people camping near Buford Tower in downtown Austin and move them to the city’s new Northbridge shelter.

The move is part of the city’s Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link or HEAL initiative, which was approved in February as part of the homelessness response. The initiative targets specific camping sites and provides outreach and relocation to shelters to those people, the city said.

About 60 people will be offered temporary stay at Northbridge as the first step in finding permanent housing. The city park land where the people are camping near the Buford Tower extends from the First Street Bridge to the southern part of Congress Bridge and from the southside of West Cesar Chavez Street to Lady Bird Lake.

The Northbridge building, located at 7400 North Interstate 35, will serve as a temporary bridge shelter as plans for the city’s permanent supporting housing project are refined. The City of Austin bought the building, which used to be a Country Inn & Suites, last year.

The building was previously used as a protective lodging facility, or ProLodge, for high-risk people to isolate from the coronavirus, according to the city.

The city has already helped move 70 people who were camping near the Terrazas Library and the underpass at Ben White/Menchaca Road to the Southbridge shelter earlier this summer. They will also start the process to find permanent housing. Southbridge used to be a Roadway Inn and is located at 2711 South Interstate 35.

Another property being leased by the city at 3105 North I-35 that was set to become another bridge shelter will no longer serve that purpose right now. It is being considered for the city’s coronavirus response. The hotel would have provided 55 rooms for people experiencing homelessness, the city said previously.

Several City of Austin departments work together on the HEAL initiative, including the Homeless Strategy Division, the multidisciplinary Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST), Austin Resource Recovery, Parks and Recreation and more. The city also works with community partners such as the Other Ones Foundation, Capital Metro, Family Eldercare and Integral Care.

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