AUSTIN (KXAN) — City officials worked to remove a homeless camp near Lady Bird Lake in southeast Austin. A body was found during a call to the site Tuesday morning, police confirmed.
A City of Austin spokesperson said more than 30 individuals were living near the area known as Longhorn/Lakeshore at Town Lake Metro Park. The area is located on parkland between the Boardwalk of International Shore to Longhorn Dam.
Austin Police said that officers responded to a check welfare call on the 400 block of S. Pleasant Valley Road just after 8 a.m. Tuesday. When officers arrived, APD said they found a body. The death is not believed to be suspicious, officials said.
The site where the body was found, according to the city, has grown since October. The site is close to a trail and the city said it wants to “ensure appropriate public access.”
“Since shelter is at capacity, enforcement and clean up do not include a housing alternative,” the city spokesperson said.
Antony Jackson, CEO of “We Can Now”, which is a direct service provider for people experiencing homelessness, says when there is a sweep there should be a plan and somewhere to send people.
“There is a sweep taking place and these people have no designated place to go,” said Jackson. “So, they have to go into the woods.”
KXAN witnessed many people packing their belongings and heading across the street into the woods. Some people left their belongings on the sidewalks outside the trail area.
Aaron Sandel was walking by when the cleanup was taking place. He says he is concerned with how the city is dealing with the homeless population.
“It is 80 something degrees and they are removing this persons shelter and it is going to be 30 degrees,” said Sandel.
A cold front moving across Central Texas is expected to bring temperatures into the 30s by Wednesday morning.
The city says over a 12-month period, they have successfully moved more than 1,700 people into housing but more resources are needed.
“I think the city needs to be doing a lot more,” said Sandel. “It is such a picture of Austin where you have Oracle headquarters and you have someone struggling to survive across the street in a little shelter.”
Jackson says more can be done to help the homeless, but continuously pushing them into the woods can cause more problems.
“We all want the same thing,” said Jackson. “Which is to end homelessness. We want to be able to run and enjoy our city and not have to see people living outside. We all want the same thing, but we all have to come to this table and we have to revisit the plan.”
The city said its key objectives with cleaning up the site are the safe removal of all individuals and their belongings, removal of debris, repairing environmental degradation, removing trash and “returning the site to its intended use.”
Austin Public Health Homeless Strategy Division, Parks and Recreation, Watershed Protection Department, Austin Resource Recovery and the Austin Police Department are coordinating the cleanup.
The area will be closed Tuesday.
The zone boundaries will be:
- Lakeshore at Town Lake Metro Park
- International Shores at Town Lake Metro Park
- Peace Point at Town Lake Metro Park
- Longhorn Shores at Town Lake Metro
- Open parkland, lakeside trail, boat ramps
The death of a person at the site remains under investigation, APD said.
Homeless camp enforcement
According to officials, the city of Austin and its partner agencies successfully moved more than 1,700 people into housing and out of homelessness in 2021.
In 2021, there were 602 site cleanups.
A new state law went into effect in 2021 banning people experiencing homelessness from camping anywhere in public. The law requires cities to enforce a ban on camping, either the one set forward by the state or a local ban just as strict or stricter.
It also says anyone camping illegally in public could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $500.
Last year, a city spokesperson told KXAN the city was in compliance with the state law.