AUSTIN (KXAN) — The woman in charge of Austin’s homeless strategy is apologizing after vandals broke into a city-owned hotel that will be converted into transitional housing for the homeless.
Dianna Gray, the city’s Homeless Strategy Officer, spoke Monday night during a virtual meeting about the May 5 break-in at the former Candlewood Suites in northwest Austin.
“The intent had been to have security on site previous to this event. It had been requested, and there was a delay in the requesting, so it had not been initiated. We acknowledge that as a failing and apologize,” Gray said.
The response came after Austin City Council member Mackenzie Kelly shared photos May 12 of broken doors and broken door knobs.
In August 2021, Austin City Council moved to buy the Candlewood Suites on Pecan Park Boulevard to transform into permanent supportive housing for the homeless population. The goal was to convert the hotel into 80 rooms as part of the city’s HEAL initiative or Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link.
The city said the “facility is designed for individuals living with disabilities who need housing assistance and ongoing support as they exit long-term homelessness.”
A city spokesperson told KXAN the facility is “currently vacant” as it awaits renovations. It “introduced regular security patrols” after the trespassing incident on May 5.
“The city intended to implement routine security monitoring earlier this year. However, due to a delay in processing the request, security had not been initiated at the site,” according to a memo that addressed the city’s security strategy following the break-in.
The memo stated security will now patrol the facility “day and night.”
According to the city’s Homeless Strategy Division, occupants should fill in late this year or early next year. On Thursday, city council is set to approve a contract with Family Eldercare to start work on the former Candlewood Suites building to make the necessary renovations to convert it to a transitional facility.
The renovations are expected to take around six months, the spokesperson said.
There is also a plan to track residents’ progress. The city said staff will keep tabs on residents’ stabilization. A spokesperson also said, “while many residents may move on to fully independent living, the intention of PSH is to provide a long-term home.”