AUSTIN (KXAN) — Construction is underway for a transitional shelter complex at the Esperanza Community.
A group of local business leaders joined The Other Ones Foundation (TOOF) in helping to provide funding and labor for the project.
“These central gathering areas will be a place where people can access food, hygiene facilities and build community among themselves,” said Chris Baker, TOOF’s founder and executive director, in a news release.
Members of the Esperanza Community, like Ty Benoit, feel like home there.
“Came here during the height of the [COVID] pandemic. I had no work, no one was hiring, I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I ended up out here,” he said. “It’s a good bouncing board here, because living on the street or under a bridge or on the sidewalk, there’s limited resources, and the atmosphere isn’t like what it is here.”
TOOF broke ground on the project at the southeast Austin site in September, and most of the underground construction is done.
This week, that progress moved above ground, with construction beginning for the first of four huts that will serve as shaded communal areas, according to the news release. Crews have also completed a handful of the 200 transitional shelter living units that the site will host.
Kip Lewis, founder of one of the local businesses donating to the efforts, has a personal connection to the project.
“It’s been incredibly heartwarming to see so many people rally together to give back. All of us who have donated our time and talents to this project have a common thread: someone close to us has experienced extreme poverty or homelessness,” he said. “This project is my personal way to honor my high school friend, who was once considered one of the greatest athletes from Austin, who died homeless. We hope this project will provide.”
Baker said most of the funding has come from private partnerships.
“But since we’ve proven that we can do it, the city has come off the sidelines, the county has come off the sidelines, the state has come off the sidelines,” he said.
A spokesperson for the City of Austin said the City supports the project. There’s currently $62.5 million allocated to preventing homelessness in the budget that’s set to be approved this week.