South Austin residents, businesses work together to address homelessness

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been a little more than a month since the Austin City Council eased restrictions on where homeless people can set up camp, and for some, in south Austin, the changes have had a big impact.

“Don’t come and dump on south Austin, come and help us,” Janie Villarreal, a south Austin resident and business owner said.

Villarreal said since the rules changed she’s started to see more homeless people in the area which have led her to make some adjustments on her property.

“We have decided to secure our properties,” she said about her shopping center on Jones Road near Manchaca Road and US Highway 290.

However, Villarreal said the added gates, security cameras and signs haven’t stopped homeless people from trespassing. She claims homeless people use her property to sleep, use the restroom and take a shower.

She and other S.A.F.E. Project (Safe Austin For Everyone) members started a local effort to address the new homeless rule changes and the proposed homeless shelter in south Austin.

“Our businesses are going down because the homeless are camping on our front door and they’re destroying our property,” Villarreal said.

The rule changes do not allow homeless people to camp on private property, but S.A.F.E Project will host a forum Tuesday evening at Woodlawn Baptist Church to generate some results. The primary focus of the forum will be on plans to open a housing center for the homeless in South Austin.

They’re calling on city leaders to take action. “We just want you to listen to our concerns,” Villarreal said.

S.A.F.E Project members tell KXAN they invited city leaders to attend the forum but in a letter signed by Mayor Steve Adler, City Council Members Ann Kitchen and Sabino “Pio” Renteria that request was turned down and asked members to meet at a later date.

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