AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some Austin lifeguards were tapped ahead of the sub-freezing temperatures to help staff warming shelters, which help keep Austin’s unhoused community safe during extreme weather events, said a representative from Lifeguards United, a quasi-union representing lifeguards in Austin.
While the representative said Austin lifeguards were sent a link to sign up for shifts at the shelter, a representative from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department denied recruiting lifeguards specifically.
“Lifeguards have not been recruited to work at warming centers,” said John Nixon, of the Parks Department, in an email.
Andy Tate of Austin’s Public Information Office said in an email that the City Manager, Spencer Cronk, asked department directors to “identify departmental staff who can be temporarily reassigned in support of necessary operations at Cold Weather Shelters and Warming Centers.”
“I’m told that the (Parks and Recreation Department) Director didn’t specifically target lifeguards either,” Tate continued.
With temperatures forecasted in the teens for the days leading up to the holiday weekend, the city will open three cold weather shelters to support Austinites without warm places to stay. These shelters will run all day and night until the temperatures rise, according to city staff.
The One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, will serve as the embarkation point where staff will register people for shelters and provide transportation to those sites.
In addition to the three cold weather shelters, the city will open four daytime warming centers. The locations of these sites will be released tomorrow, according to city staff.
The lifeguard union representative explained that several Austin lifeguards were interested in volunteering at the shelters.
“I have not heard anyone express they are uncomfortable. Lifeguards are ready and happy to help,” the union representative said in an email to KXAN.