AUSTIN (KXAN) — A tent community in a heavily wooded area at Mabel Davis District Park in southeast Austin is raising some concerns for people in the area.

“There’s so much potential here and when you allow things to keep people from coming here, like the homeless people, it really ruins my neighborhood and it kind of sucks,” Sonny Thomas, a life-long southeast Austin resident, said.

Thomas grew up right next to the park and still goes to it as much as he can. He saw the park go from a rundown look to the nice park it is today, equipped with a skate park and a public pool. He now organizes community events at the park with his next event coming up right before Halloween this year with a skating competition for kids.

He wants to see the homeless population removed from the park area.

Safety concerns

“They’re creating problems. They caught the woods on fire over here. They found a dead homeless person just a month ago,” Thomas explained.

A person was found dead in the park on July 20. Austin police did not give a reason why that person died but said it was not investigating the death as a homicide.

Thomas said there are some people doing drugs next to the skate park, and sometimes there are altercations involving a homeless person.

“I have seen the homeless people get into fights, do crazy stuff that I’m not even going to mention on film because that’s not my place,” Thomas said.

Not everyone feels this way. KXAN spoke to people who walk along the paths surrounding the park every day, and they said they had never had an issue with the homeless population. Some even said they had not noticed the tent community.

What the city says

A spokesperson with the parks and recreation department at the city of Austin said, “The City and our partners have been conducting intensive outreach in the area of Mable Davis for several years. This outreach presence will be maintained while social service professionals work to make resources available to vulnerable unhoused residents in the area.”

Austin passed an ordinance in 2021 that outlawed camping in public space that is not designated for camping. The state then passed a bill that same year that coincides with Austin’s ordinance.