AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin’s homeless strategy officer admitted there is “pressure” to solve the city’s homelessness crisis during a discussion with reporters Wednesday morning.
Dianna Grey, who has been in the position for three months, addressed homelessness issues including the potential reinstatement of the city’s camping ban.
Proposition B is on the May election ballot for voters to decide if the ban will come back, with recent fires in homeless encampments heightening focus on the debate.
City leaders agree that more must be done to address the issue of homelessness in Austin. They just don’t agree on how it should be done yet.
“There is no shortage of pressure to address this crisis,” Grey said. “And that pressure has existed long before the ballot initiative was even on the horizon.”
“That pressure is about the number of people that are living on the streets and desperately need housing,” she said.
Part of the city’s response to the crisis is to identify and shut down four homeless camps across Austin due to health and safety concerns.
Grey said the specific sites will not be made public to protect the privacy of those who live there, but said they are located in the northwest, east Austin, downtown and south-central areas of the city.
Roughly 100 people will be relocated when the action is taken, but there is no precise start date at this stage, she said.
People living at those camps won’t just be kicked out, Grey explained.
“We won’t go in and close an encampment immediately,” she said. “The strategy is that we will engage closely with those individuals in the encampment, and that we’re able to offer them shelter and permanent housing before that campsite closes.”
The current waitlist for housing among the homeless population is “extraordinarily long,” she added.
Grey added that action taken by the city and the community to help the unhoused population during Winter Storm Uri in February “saved a lot of lives.”