Neighbors worry about drugs, litter, feces as homeless camp grows in Windsor Park neighborhood

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A homeless camp in his backyard — that’s what one Austin man has been documenting since the beginning of this year near Windsor Park Creek.

Kevin Ludlow started recording video in January, as people started setting up camp in his neighborhood.

By March, the grass is barely visible underneath the tents and trash.

“It’s really escalated pretty badly over the last four months, maybe,” Ludlow says.

And when rains come, like they did on Friday, Ludlow worries that contaminants from his Windsor Park neighborhood travel downstream to Windsor and Bartholomew parks.

“Between that and the needles and the clothing, the decomposing food… and then all of the fecal contaminants that are here, as soon as we have the storm, anything that gets swept into it is just going right on down the creek,” he says.

Ludlow says he and other neighbors have reported the growing camp to the city.

Austin’s watershed department tells KXAN they last cleaned the site on March 6, but that stopped because of COVID-19 concerns.

A spokesperson says they’re working with the parks and recreation department to clean up Windsor Creek Park “in the coming days.”

Watershed Protection is aware of the homeless encampment in Windsor Park Creek and cleaned this site last on March 6 under a previous contract. This contract, however, was cancelled when the contractor requested to be withdrawn due to Covid-19 safety concerns. At that time, Watershed Protection homeless encampment cleanups came to a halt. We are now going to Council on September 3 for a new emergency contract with a different contractor in the amount of $147k to allow us to resume cleanups with specific Covid-19 safety protocols in place.

WPD is coordinating in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department to begin cleanup services at this site in the coming days. PARD is working with The Other Ones Foundation to help connect people living in this area with alternative housing options and job assistance.

WPD discourages anyone from camping near creeks as waters can rise quickly during heavy rainfall.

Susan Garnett, City of Austin Watershed Protection Department spokesperson

Ludlow says he and his neighbors don’t want people to get in trouble — but get help before things get worse.

“Our houses are in jeopardy, we’re worried about needles and contaminants ending up in our backyard as they do, from time to time,” Ludlow says.

He thinks city staff and council members are doing the best they can to control the camp right now, but believes there just aren’t many places for people to go, since many shelters and programs require sobriety.

“We need real, long-term solutions for homeless people, for people with mental afflictions, people with drug addictions,” Ludlow says.

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