What’s leading to the low turnout at the Governor’s temporary homeless camp?

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly one week after the governor announced a new temporary homeless encampment under state control and operation, homeless advocates are expressing disappointment at the lack of turnout at the facility.

On Thursday, Gov. Abbott announced a former maintenance yard for TxDOT vehicles in East Austin will be used to provide shelter for the homeless until a more permanent solution can be found.

READ: State of Texas to provide temporary shelter for homeless in Austin

Since Thursday, the governor’s office reports fewer than a dozen people have decided to seek shelter at the camp.

The temporary homeless camp in East Austin opened on Thursday, but few people have decided to camp there. (Courtesy: Jacqulyn Powell)

Beginning Wednesday, CapMetro, at the request of state officials, offered a free bus ride to the camp, but reported to KXAN that no one chose to board the bus and receive a ride.

Buses will still be available for those experiencing homelessness on Thursday beginning at 8:30 p.m. near Manchaca and 290.

Greg McCormack with Front Steps said the state-run facility is simply too far away from resources that can be found downtown, which is leading to low turnout.

“It’s not ideal for anyone to access any other services in and around the downtown area or really anywhere. It’s pretty secluded,” McCormack said.

Officials within the governor’s office said there are a number of resources being offered at the site including food, clothing and restroom facilities, among other things.

“This is the governor following through on what he said he would do. He helped provide a short-term fix while working on a long-term solution,” said John Wittman, a spokesperson for Gov. Abbott.

ATX Helps, a coalition of organizations, announced last week that they hope to get a 300 bed shelter up and running within the next few months.

READ: Austin Chamber announces new coalition raising $14 million for temporary homeless shelter

KXAN visited with several people who are living underneath the Highway 290 overpass near South Lamar Blvd. and Manchaca Rd. One man who has been homeless for a year said he wouldn’t go because he is used to the comforts that are near his current camp site.

Despite weekly clean-ups from TxDot officials, some people have decided to continue camping under U.S. 290 in Austin. (Courtesy: Alex Caprariello)

“There’s a store here, there’s a Target right here, there’s many fast food restaurants that way,” explained Danny Bonura, a 50-year-old from Austin. “Me getting on a bus? This is where I live!”

Rumors of toxic materials

State officials assured KXAN that the camp site is safe after a viewer expressed concerns about the property.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality confirmed there were leaking petroleum storage tanks next door, but those tanks were removed in 1990.

The impacted soil was taken away and back-filled. By 1991, no further action was required.

KXAN checked with the governor’s office and learned there are no hazardous materials at the site.

TxDOT said it was once used as a maintenance yard, but for the past 20 years it has stored road signs.

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