Austin police, city leaders discuss moving to final phase of camping ban

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon and the City of Austin’s homeless strategy officer Dianna Grey discussed the next phase of the Proposition B camping ban enforcement Tuesday.

On Sunday, the fourth and final phase of the city’s plan to enforce the ban went into effect. That means Austin Police Department officers will begin making arrests for violations of the camping ban. As the ban’s third phase of enforcement was coming to a close Friday, APD said in a release it has issued 572 warnings and 24 citations for violating the ban.

Much of the phased-in enforcement of the ban is education-based and trying to get campers moved into other facilities like shelters or hotels that have been retrofitted for transitional housing. Issuing citations and making arrests have been considered last resorts for people who fail to comply with the voter-approved proposition.

Two sites the city put forward as potential city-sponsored homeless camps in east and southwest Austin have been met with heavy resistance from neighbors. Sites on Manor Road in east Austin and Convict Hill Road in southwest Austin were floated as ideas in late July but have since been put on the back burner after neighbors responded against the plans.

Nonprofit Caritas of Austin also broke ground on Monday for a new supportive housing community, aiming to take 171 chronically homeless people off the streets.

Jo Kathryn Quinn, president and CEO of Caritas, said the development, “Espero Rutland,” is the type of large-scale solution Austin needs to be implementing.

“It’s hard for the community to see much progress on homelessness, not because the programs aren’t effective, but because the programs aren’t big enough,” Quinn said. “We need to scale our efforts and make our homeless response system much larger than it is.”

Espero Rutland will house people who are referred from a coordinated entry system. They will be paired with social services and other amenities to ensure their well being. The location is near bus lines, grocery stores, a library and YMCA — all things Carnitas says will drive the effort forward.

The entire construction cost for the project is slated to be $34.3 million with an ambitious opening date of fall 2022.

“We are trying. We are doing our best. We are really trying to push forward to scale our operations,” Quinn said. “Communities like the one we are going to build is a key strategy for our city to continue to develop, so people have a safe, respectful and supportive environment. So they can be successful at moving and making the transition from years of living outside to having a safe and stable place inside and being fully re-integrated into our community.”

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