Austin

Southeast Austin neighbors concerned with homeless living under bridge

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Homeowners in one east Austin neighborhood are concerned with several homeless people who have taken up residence underneath one of the bridges along Riverside Drive near South Pleasant Valley Road.  

"We're concerned with the safety of everyone," said PK Thomason, who lives nearby. "We're concerned with the safety of the homeless people that are living under our bridge and we're concerned with the safety of our waterways."

She worries about, "trash, human excrement, panhandling, property destruction from panhandling in the medians and traffic congestion."

Thomason is most concerned about nearby creeks getting polluted with the items she sees left behind. 

"Tons of garbage, condoms, needles, we have things that people are leaving on the ground and it's flowing into the watershed."

She says the water also runs through their neighborhood and flows out to the Colorado River.

It's something Jose Guerrero, assistant director at the city's Watershed Protection Department, says he's aware of. 

"The homeless just come in cycles," he said. "This is a never-ending problem, a never-ending cycle." 

He says they work closely with city departments like Code, Police and Fire to clean it up and have protocols in place if they do find something in the water along with a whole task force prepared to remove floating items. 

"A lot of times there is illicit activities and we find needles, canisters of fuel for cooking and gas can accumulate in there — it can be a very dangerous situation and not to mention, we've had some sudden storms here in Austin and if water rises rapidly someone could get trapped," said Guerrero.

Guerrero says they help connect homeless people with resources offered across the city, but admit sometimes they come back.

"Sometimes folks do eventually find housing and services, but then another wave of people move to Austin and that's the never-ending cycle," he said. "It's that wait period we are trying to diminish overall, the waiting for the services."

Guerrero says they've been working on this for years. 

"At some point, we need to get serious about jobs, education, and affordable housing to solve this homeless issue."

Thomason says the police have been very helpful and wanted to thank officer Jesse Mendoza in particular.

For a full list of resources for people experiencing homelessness, take a look at the pocket guide below:


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