‘I think the city is dropping the ball.’ New concerns arise after state-mandated homeless camp cleanups

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The governor-mandated homeless camp cleanups are expected to continue Wednesday.

The Other Ones Foundation, a nonprofit that has been going out to sites with the Texas Department of Transportation to help those being forced out, said they’re planning on going to the U.S. Highway 183 corridor next.

On Tuesday, TxDOT said it cleaned seven locations along Interstate 35 in downtown Austin.

“They’re scared because they don’t know. They feel like they’re being pushed out of their homes. I get that,” said Joe Pacheco about people who had to clear out from their underpass camps.

Pacheco said he is homeless himself, but he’s been working with the Other Ones Foundation. He said many people who are homeless didn’t know about the cleanup.

“They’re not privy to news. They don’t see television. They don’t really know what’s going on,” he said.

A similar scene played out Monday at State Highway 71 and West Gate Boulevard in south Austin.

“I think it’s actually the right thing for TxDOT to do. Absolutely,” said Stuart Dupuy, who owns a business nearby. “TxDOT needs to take care of the roadways, and it is not OK for people to be living and camping under Texas roadways.”

Dupuy said the difference between before and after the cleanup on West Gate is dramatic.

He said, “It looks incredible underneath the bridge. It was terrible. I couldn’t walk over to lunch without stepping over needles, bottles of human waste, dead animals, dead rats,” but he added, there’s now a new problem.

“It just pushed a huge amount of people down here,” Dupuy explained, referring to an area where West Gate dead ends. While underpasses are technically the responsibility of the state, the city of Austin is in charge of this particular area.

Homeless camps at Austin’s Water Quality Management Area on West Gate Blvd. (KXAN Photo/Yoojin Cho)

We saw a sign there that read “Austin’s Water Quality Management Area.” Several other signs warned people about trespassing.

“There’s a big pile of bikes down here. You can see the tool box that was stolen out of someone’s pick up truck,” Dupuy said.

He told KXAN about a month ago, the city cleaned the area and has managed to keep it clean. But after the state cleanup Monday, some people showed up there with their belongings.

Dupuy said the state was right in doing its job of cleaning the underpasses. He now wants the city to step up with enforcement and services.

“People that are breaking the law need to be ticketed, but at the same time, people need resources. They need support,” he said. “Drug addicts, maybe they got there by choice, but they’re not there by choice right now. They need support.”

Austin Water is in charge of the Water Quality Management Area. They said they’re now aware of trespassing at that location. They will work with law enforcement to clear the area.

TxDOT explained that they cleaned one location Monday on SH 71 and cleaned seven locations Tuesday along I-35. the other locations TxDOT plans to clean are along SH 71 and US 182.

“The current plan once cleanups this week are complete is to return on a weekly basis unless otherwise directed by the governor,” said TxDOT spokesperson Diann Hodges in an email.

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