Austin eyes 2 sanctioned homeless camps, could build tiny homes at site

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin has whittled down a list of properties for sanctioned homeless camping from 78 to two.

It was the latest update on the initiative from Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey. According to a brief City Council members received Thursday afternoon, the cost to run the properties annually would be $1.3 million and $1.6 million, respectively.

City staff said it is not yet identifying the specific locations because legal staff is still determining whether the land will need to be rezoned. It’s also not yet clear which service providers would operate the designated encampments.

“I certainly look forward to hearing that information when the staff finishes their vetting process,” said District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo.

The latest update comes a month after Grey told council members their list of requirements for proposed encampment sites was too restrictive. She told Council the restrictions made it difficult to locate appropriate city-owned land.

In the memo released Thursday, staff said it has researched the idea of constructing “tiny homes” or other similar structures “in 30 days or less” on the two proposed sites. The approximate cost of each structure would be $5,000 to $10,000, according to the memo.

The city is exploring the idea of building tiny homes or similar structures on designated encampment property.

“We have a wide spectrum of neighbors experiencing homelessness and the options need to be diverse,” said Tovo.

City staff noted another option for individuals who sleep in their cars: designated parking lots. The city says at $80,000 per year, these lots would have restrooms, handwashing stations and security. The minimum criteria for each would be 50 parking spaces and good lighting. Proposed operating hours would be 10:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m.

It is exactly two months since Austin voters overwhelmingly chose to reinstate the city’s camping ban. The city has still approved no locations to tell those people experiencing homelessness where they can legally camp.

The city says it has moved approximately 20 individuals from outside East Austin’s Terrazas Library to a city-owned hotel that was formerly a Rodeway Inn. It is now called the Southbridge Shelter.

This week, the city renewed a lease at another hotel where vulnerable and often homeless individuals were staying due to the pandemic. The city says the Central Austin hotel will be used as a second bridge shelter.

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