AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city spent Tuesday cleaning up homeless camps along Lady Bird Lake in southeast Austin, but some questioned the move with shelters at capacity and freezing temperatures expected overnight.
“We were already comfortable and setup,” said Rudy, who is experiencing homelessness and had to move his tent. “It was like home to us. So, it was hurtful when they told us we had to get out.”
He moved across the street and into the woods near Longhorn Dam. He said they were given warning but constantly moving is difficult.
“We just got out here, so we are trying to organize out here and just setting up,” Rudy said.
Felix, who is also experiencing homelessness, has lived in the woods nearby for about a year. On Tuesday, he noticed a number of people setting up tents.
“All of a sudden there are all these tents popping up over here,” he said. “We had to put some people up in our tents. They kicked them out, and a lot of people don’t have phones, so they didn’t know what the weather was going to be like.”
What is the plan when there are cleanups, but nowhere for people experiencing homelessness to go?
“The City is enforcing the law against public camping. This site was highly visible and had grown substantially since October, it had been designated a Priority Level 3 (out of 5) by PARD Homeless Response staff. PARD had received numerous and repeated concerns related to this encampment including, but not limited to direct community communications to PARD, 311 and City Council. This encampment was in close proximity to the trail and it was important to address to ensure appropriate public access.
APD and City partners – including Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Austin Resource Recovery and Watershed Protection – are taking a responsible approach to enforcing the public camping ban and working with the people who are impacted. The City’s Homeless Outreach Street Team and Downtown Austin Community Court social workers are helping to make sure individuals experiencing homelessness can access support services. Meanwhile, under the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) Initiative, 182 people living in six of the most unsafe encampments have been relocated to rooms at City-owned bridge shelters and linked to long-term housing. Over a 12-month period, the City and its partners successfully moved more than 1,700 people into housing and out of homelessness.
City leaders continue to caution that overall community crisis shelter capacity remains extremely limited. For as long as this is the case, as encampments are cleared in one location, the number of tents will inevitably grow in other areas. That’s why the increase in resources to address homelessness is so important. Last June, Austin City Council voted to dedicate $106.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds toward addressing homelessness. Travis County Commissioners Court voted in September to allocate $110 million in ARPA funds to build housing units for people experiencing homelessness in the Austin area. The City is also expanding capacity for crisis services, case management, behavioral health, and rehousing programs.”– City of Austin spokesperson
Notice was given to people camping. They were given seven days to remove their camps.
Who gives the final call on whether to go forward with a cleanup?
That depends on which city department is leading the cleanup/enforcement. In this case the city’s parks and recreation department’s homeless response staff was the lead.
Under the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) Initiative, 182 people living in six of the most unsafe encampments have been relocated to rooms at City-owned bridge shelters and linked to long-term housing. Over a 12-month period, the City and its partners successfully moved more than 1,700 people into housing and out of homelessness.
There are about 1,200 permanent supportive housing units in the community, including units that are supported by agencies and organizations other than the City of Austin.
Also, a third City-owned hotel in north Austin is being converted into a 60 apartment community to help individuals who are experiencing homelessness move off the streets and into housing.
There are 1,000 new apartments being developed to serve people experiencing homelessness over the next three years, supported by both the City of Austin and Travis County.