AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council will decide on Wednesday whether to purchase two hotels to provide additional permanent housing units for those experiencing homelessness.
If approved for purchase by the council, the Candlewood Suites in northwest Austin and the Texas Bungalows Hotel & Suites would add 150 units to the city’s existing capacity for housing people experiencing homelessness at a combined cost of $16.2 million.
“We’ve got to finally do something that this city hasn’t done in generations which is actually end homelessness by housing folks rather than just moving people around,” Council Member Greg Casar told KXAN.
Last week, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the city’s approach to homeless is “not working the way it needs to,” while Gov. Greg Abbott threatened state action if the city doesn’t reinstate its public camping ban.
Adler said at the time that reinstating the ban would be “inhumane” but signaled during a council work session on Monday that designated camping sites, like the state-provided land that’s home to the Esperanza Community, may be part of the solution for those awaiting permanent housing.
“That is not something that is normally desirable but at the same time we have an emergency need for rapid housing,” Adler said.
Council Member Ann Kitchen proposed a new resolution to immediately rehouse individuals living in dangerous and unhealthy areas, like intersections, medians, and underpasses.
The “Housing-Focused Homeless Encampment Assistance Link” would appropriate $3 million in its first phase to connect those experiencing homelessness with health services and create a path to permanent housing.
Targeted areas would then be blocked from public camping.
“It’s one step that we need to take right now,” Kitchen said of the resolution, which will be considered on Feb. 4. “It’s a place to start with connecting people with the housing and services and to then just make it clear that these areas are not safe and are not healthy for people to be staying in.”
The City of Austin plans to host a homelessness summit with policymakers and the community next month.