Mayor, council members pitch new homeless housing at town hall

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — City leaders promised more housing for homeless people is coming to Austin while speaking to to a sometimes turbulent crowd Wednesday during a town hall at the Austin Convention Center.

Right now, there are more than 630 beds for homeless people across several shelters in Austin. More than 300 additional beds are coming in the next budget cycle according to a memo from Mayor Steve Adler.

That includes 100 at the new city homeless shelter- set to open next year. City Council members approved 8.6 million dollars for that new center on Ben White Boulevard in south Austin in June.

This comes after council decriminalized panhandling and camping in many public areas. Many Austinites want results now.

Calvin Wade sleeps on Austin streets. Wednesday he saw signs and walked into the Downtown Austin Alliance’s town hall with city council members on homelessness. He was one of about 900 people in attendance.

“Got to get some rest some kinda way. Getting off ready. Getting off the bus. Getting off the plane. Gotta have somewhere to go,” said Wade.

Wade tells KXAN he’s originally from Dallas and he was just passing through Austin when his friend got arrested. For the past two months, Calvin has been sleeping on these benches, waiting for his friend to get out of jail. Just feet away from the convention center where the forum took place.

Why not go sleep by the ARCH people tell him?

“Talking about that ARCH. Nah. That ARCH like I told you. It is not the place that a person wants to go. Because you can’t even really get in,” said Wade, describing when there’s no room inside it’s simply too dangerous outside.

“All I see is drug activity in front of that. That’s all I see,” said Wade.

There currently is not enough temporary or permanent housing available for the more than 2,200 homeless people in Austin. City leaders know it and say more housing will be available in 30 to 60 days.

“The ultimate answer has to be, to put those people into homes. Anything short of that just moves the challenge from place to place to place,” said Mayor Adler.

But many in the crowd had concerns. They worried taxpayer-funded homes and services would only encourage more homeless to come: creating a never-ending money pit.

According to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, 37% of people on the streets became homeless outside of Austin and then moved to the capital city; 60% became homeless in Austin. We don’t know if they came specifically for the services or not, but at this point, the council will continue to move forward with more city resources.

Next week Austin city manager Spencer Cronk will come back with his recommendation on whether or not the city should restrict camping.

On Friday, Cronk’s team and the city’s Homeless Strategy Office sent out a memo saying its recommendations for limiting camping, sitting, and lying would focus on areas with high pedestrian traffic, heavy vehicular traffic, and floodways. They also said they would not suggest where camping should be allowed.

The Downtown Austin Alliance held the town hall on the city’s ongoing homelessness controversy and the public ordinance that started it. They invited, Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen, and Kathie Tovo to the Austin Convention Center.

On July 1, an ordinance went into effect that lifted restrictions on where homeless people could camp, sit down or sleep.

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