AUSTIN (KXAN) — A woman who lives in one of Austin’s wooded areas said the rain we got Monday made a bad situation worse for her. She’s worried after she and her neighbors had to pull their tents out of the woods, to higher ground, that the City of Austin will sweep them out of the area.
“We’ve lost everything. We had no choice but to come to the top of the hill, that’s not where we want to be,” a woman known by the folks in her community as “Brooke G” said. “There are solutions.”
Those solutions are likely something you’ll hear about as we near the November City Council election. Clinton Rarey, who’s running for District 1, has been particularly vocal about homelessness.
“We really need to set up temporary shelter instead of doing housing first,” Rarey said. He has been documenting encampments and posting videos of them on Twitter. He said if elected, he wants to look at solutions for people he thinks the city is overlooking.
“Creating an encampment where everybody can be at, where they can get the services they need. And then using Central Health to get people, maybe if they need to get in-patient rehab or mental health services, that way we can focus on the individuals who are chronically homeless,” Rarey said, saying it would function similarly to how his military bases were set up overseas. Homelessness is one of Rarey’s key platforms along with public safety and government transparency.
Antony Jackson, the CEO and founder of We Can Now, an outreach group, was passing out dry clothes and blankets to people in a north Austin camp Tuesday. Jackson, who has previously experienced homelessness said the solution is: “Housing. This is why we need housing. Period.”
“We need more, but the need for today is dry items so we said ‘we’re on our way'” Jackson said. His organization focuses on getting people experiencing homelessness immediate resources, in Tuesday’s case, dry clothes.
Meanwhile, Austin City Council recently revisited “sanctioned encampments.” Members of the council once again floated the idea of sanctioned encampments — a place where people experiencing homelessness can go to safely camp and get resources — during budget discussions earlier this month, despite the city all but squashing the concept last year.
“I really think that the city and the city council needs to address setting up sanctioned camping areas,” Councilmember Kathie Tovo said during a budget hearing. She was first to bring it up, but other members piled on.
Austin-Travis County EMS Commander Blake Hardy said flooding increases the risk of death or injury for people living outside and that ATCEMS was out Tuesday following up on requests for people impacted by Monday’s storm.
“There are likely far more in need than we know about or can address,” Hardy said.
Meanwhile, a City of Austin spokesperson said because the city sees a lot of rain during this time of year, its teams are trying to warn people in advance of severe storms.
“Outreach teams routinely communicate with encampment occupants about fire prevention and flash flood safety,” a spokesperson for the City of Austin said.
But Brooke G said she doesn’t feel her, or the people living near her, have anywhere else to go.
“There’s no reason that any human being, I don’t care what they’ve done in their lifetime, should ever have to live in conditions like this,” Brooke said.