New plans unveiled: 200 micro-shelters to be placed at state-owned homeless camp

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A nonprofit has launched its latest fundraising campaign to provide transitional housing to more than 200 people experiencing homelessness while they search for something more permanent.

To do so, The Other Ones Foundation [TOOF] will utilize state-owned land Governor Abbott signed off in 2019.

The nonprofit will need around $5.5 million dollars to transform the lot into four neighborhoods, made up of 200 individual housing units. Each unit is 8×12 and is fully-insulated, air conditioned and is big enough for one or two people to lay down cots and other personal belongings.

Blueprints for the new transitional camp. (Courtesy: The Other Ones Foundation)

The blueprints also showcase new bathrooms, showers and kitchens. The foundation says there will be case managers on site and employment opportunities for residents. TOOF says it has already raised around $2 million. The 200 units of housing could begin installation by the end of 2021.

“We here in Austin, Texas have a phenomenal opportunity to combat this crisis now. Now. Not tomorrow, not next week, not six months from now. Right now,” Founder and CEO of TOOF Chris Baker said at the fundraising event. “The program designs are fully-fleshed out, the site design is fully fleshed out. And we are ready to go.”

“We are already light years ahead of any sort of half-baked plans that have come down the pipe on this site.”

Chris Baker, The Other Ones Foundation

ATX Helps, the group that once said it would build a shelter on the property, but abandoned the idea for safety reasons during the pandemic, has pledged to collaborate with TOOF’s plan. However, Dewitt Peart, the CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance and representative for ATX Helps, didn’t specifically say they would donate the remaining funds it gathered for the shelter to TOOF. Peart said the funds would be strategically invested to help unsheltered people.

The City of Austin is not directly funding this project either, but is supporting TOOF by employing some of the Camp Esperanza residents and providing showers on-site.

What is Camp Esperanza

The camp sits on an L-shaped lot on land owned by the Texas Department of Transportation off of US Highway 183 near Montopolis Drive.

The campsite first opened on Nov. 7, 2019 as a place where people experiencing homelessness could go while the state cleared out encampments beneath overpasses at a time when shelters in the city were full.

This unique encampment became a reality because Governor Abbott designated the state land. Abbott tasked state agencies with some aspects of operating the camp.

TOOF relocated its headquarters to the back of the lot in August 2020.

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