AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin wants to get people off the streets and into housing. At present, they’re working to house those who are camped at St. John Neighborhood Park in north Austin. 

Tuesday, city leaders hope to clean out the camp and have everyone moved, but Austin City Councilmember Chito Vela said it could take an extra day or two to wrap up.

The city reports 31 people experiencing homelessness at the St. John Park site have been moved into city shelters. There are still a few people left to move as of Monday morning when KXAN stopped by.

This move is now part of the city’s Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link or HEAL. That’s the initiative that clears out homeless encampments across the city that pose high public health and safety risks. They work to get people into shelters or supportive housing. Vela has been working with local organizations to help those at St. John Park transition. 

“More than anything, the way we were involved was to push for a humane and compassionate solution,” he said.

Vela added that this move will not only help those living there but give the park back to the neighbors.

Desiree Rodriguez has been living at St. John Park for the last eight months. (KXAN Photo/Candy Rodriguez)

“That location was not an appropriate site for a public camp like that it made the park, which is the only park in the St. John’s neighborhood, basically unusable. There were a lot of folks there and, and a lot of disturbances, and that was really hard on the neighbors whose fences were immediately adjacent to the camp,” he said. “I appreciate everyone’s patience.”

KXAN spoke with a woman who is waiting on housing after spending years on the street.

“The stigma of homelessness is ridiculous,” explained Desiree Rodriguez. “Because people who work two jobs, they just cannot afford (housing).”

Another St. John Park resident, Dwayne Wade, said that he got connected and into a hotel room just three days ago thanks to local organizations helping the camp. Organizations and departments include the Homeless Strategy Division, Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST), Downtown Austin Community Court and several community partners such as Austin Area Urban League, Community Resilience Trust, Integral Care, Little Petal Alliance, Sunrise Navigation Center and Front Steps.

In a tweet, Vela thanked city staff and community organizations who helped with the process.

“When I took office, my intention was to locate housing for the camp residents and close the St. John’s camp as soon as possible. And, and honestly, I’m very proud, we did that,” he said.

“Don’t judge the character of the people for what you see,” said Dwayne Wade who recently got into a hotel room thanks to the organizations helping people move. “Go talk to them and ask them what caused them to end up in this situation.” (KXAN Photo/Candy Rodriguez)

Both Rodriguez and Wade tell me they are looking forward to the future. 

“I’m inspired I’ve been waiting for a long time,” Wade said.

Right now, the HEAL Initiative is in its second phase. So far, through HEAL, the city has been able to move 94 people to temporary shelters. The city’s Homeless Strategy Division aims to shelter and house at least 200 people through the initiative this fiscal year.

During the first phase, between June to August of last year, they were able to move around 150 people to shelters.