AUSTIN (KXAN) — Human waste, syringes and trash is piling up at a homeless encampment in West Campus. Some students told KXAN they avoid walking by the area because of it.
The homeless encampment is in the artist market just feet away from the Drag and next door to the University Co-op, which is an area with heavy foot traffic.
Joell McNew, president of SafeHorns, a nonprofit advocating for student safety, said the encampment has been there for months and is becoming a danger to not only the students and businesses nearby but also for the people living there.
“There are used needles, used condoms; there is feces, urine, trash,” said McNew. “They are living there, and why is that OK?”
A City of Austin spokesperson said its homeless strategy division and the Austin Police Department said have “been in communication with stakeholders about specific concerns related to this location.”
“City departments and offices including APH, EMS, APD, and HOST are actively engaging the unhoused population in the area before enforcement action occurs. Shelter and housing scarcity pose a significant challenge as many people experiencing homelessness do not currently have safe and legal places to sleep and meet basic needs,” a statement said.
McNew said she has received complaints about aggressive behavior from the people living in the encampment multiple times, and many students are scared to walk by.
“The encampment has grown,” McNew said. “The population is much larger. It is more aggressive, and this is a huge human and public safety health crisis.”
The SafeHorns president said she wants the people living there to get help, but no one seems to be responding.
“When they are participating in criminal behavior and activity and negatively impacting the community, there should be accountability for that, and the city should step in,” McNew said.
The city said its homeless shelters are full, and it said “the population of people experiencing homelessness in the Austin area has not declined since the camping ban was reinstated by voters in 2021.”
The city said if a homeless encampment is creating a concern for safety, you can contact Austin 311 to create a report.
KXAN has reached out and is waiting for a reply from the University of Texas, APD and the local councilmember. Once we receive a response we will add it to the story.