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It's been a year since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott intervened in Austin's homelessness crisis.
Prompted by the City Council's June 2019 decision to overturn a ban on public camping and reports of crime by homeless suspects, Abbott ordered sweeps of camps under state highways and established a state-run campsite in Southeast Austin.
Since then, the camps' residents have faced the COVID-19 pandemic and continued cleanups by both the Texas Department of Transportation and various city agencies.
Here's a look inside the camps.
Many homeless camps in Austin can be found underway highway overpasses, such as this one at I-35 and Montopolis.
John Volloy has lived at a South Austin homeless camp known as the Breezeway for three years and operates a bike workshop there. Although other camps nearby have water stations and trash bins, he prefers the Breezeway, which provides the cover of an overpass and decent water drainage. He has no plans to leave. "I'm going to stay no matter what," he told Austonia.
A makeshift weapon made from a piece of broken glass sits on the ground at a Southeast Austin homeless camp. Most violent crimes involving a homeless suspect have a homeless victim, Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Joe Chacon said earlier this year.
Some residents complained about the drug use at the camps, and syringes like this one littered the ground at many. The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition lists lack of affordable healthcare as one of the main causes of homelessness, citing poorly managed substance use and mental health disorders as possible reasons someone may lose a job or housing.
Numerous homeless residents said they get by salvaging items such as donated clothing or old bikes. Here, a resident sleeps in the middle of a makeshift bike workshop at the Breezeway.
The state-run campsite spans across a seven-acre maintenance yard off of Hwy. 183 near Montopolis. Overhead, airplanes descend en route to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which is nearby.
David, 58, moved to the state-run site in January, after spending two years "basically on vacation" in Mexico. Before that, he lost his job in the oil and gas industry.
His setup includes two tents, some turf, a grill station and a white picket fence. He inherited a Trump 2020 sign from one of his neighbors and got ahold of some Joe Biden toilet paper.
There are some vehicle bays near the entrance of the state-run homeless camp in Southeast Austin, which have since been repurposed into living quarters by its residents. Others live in tents, with no shade, toward the back of site.
Kimberley Piper has lived at a homeless camp across from the Westgate park-and-ride for about a month. She became homeless earlier this year, after more than a decade off the streets, when she moved out of her father's apartment nearby. She said he didn't think he needed a caretaker.
Piper has two tents set up, as well as some homey touches, such as a small flower bed surrounded by rocks and a pet fish.
According to some of the camp residents, they must keep their belongings inside their tents or risk losing them in a city or state cleanup.
Robert has been homeless since 1984. He moved to the camp near the Terrazas Branch Library on East Riverside Drive about a year ago. CommUnity Care comes by each week to test residents for COVID-19.
None of the camp's residents have contracted the virus, he said.
At the Riverside camp, a resident strung the trees overhead with toilet paper.
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In a match marred by injuries and key player absences, Austin FC lost 2-0 in Los Angeles for the second time on Saturday to West Division titan LA Galaxy.
Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver was tasked with the near-insurmountable task of holding back the LA Galaxy's Chicharito, who is now the league's top scorer this season, and he nearly succeeded.
The club saw its first major threat from the formidable Chicharito when a penalty was drawn on Jhohan Romana. In his usual game-saving fashion, Stuver leapt to the right to kept the scoreboard empty and block what many thought would be the league leader's first goal of the match.
With a Hector Jimenez injury midway through play, a Jon Gallagher absence due to injury and a man down as Captain Alex Ring sat the bench, however, the team was unable to get a win in their second trip to Los Angeles.
Austin FC was slated to play against the odds after Ring was benched due to a second yellow card last week. To cover the wound, the club put standout rookie Daniel Pereira in his stead and placed Danny Hoesen back at the crown of the lineup after fellow striker Gallagher stayed home.
Hector Jimenez got his first start with the club at right back in the stead of Nick Lima, but the run was short-lived. The 32-year-old suffered an injury after attempting to save the first LA Galaxy goal, but Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget still scored the match opener after popping a shot over Stuver to make the match 1-0.
Austin FC plateaued through much of the first half, and the forces of the universe were in the Galaxy's favor as they encroached on Austin's defense.
The club found new stamina, as they usually do, when a set of subs were brought in to up the club's tempo, and ten minutes of the match were entirely Kekuta Manneh's. Manneh, the club's only player with Austin ties, subbed in the 60th minute of play and immediately made an attempt on goal. The winger would make three more attempts, one of which just missed the top right corner of goal, before LA made its next advances on Austin's defense.
Head coach Josh Wolff said he hoped for a goal for Manneh, who doesn't often get to hit the pitch.
"His contributions were obvious, and I would have liked to see him get a goal there," Wolff said.
It looked like Austin might tie it up during the "Kekuta Era," but Chicharito played true to his stats. Stuver went head-to-head with Chicharrito once again and lost as he scored his seventh goal in five matches in the 77th minute of play.
⚽️ x 7️⃣@CH14_ scores his league-leading seventh of the season! #LAvATX pic.twitter.com/28zLnOmKWb
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 15, 2021
Matt Besler said he was up for a challenge as the club's central defender and he's unsurprised at Chicharito's success. Besler also said and he respects Chicharito on and off the pitch becuase of his openness about mental illness.
"I was looking forward to the challenge," Besler said. "His recognition of where the space is world class, and it's no surprise that he's scored goals everywhere that he's gone. I respect him as a player and I also respect him off the field."
Another attempt on goal was made by the Galaxy's Kevin Cabral, who sunk one in past Stuver just minutes later, but the goal was called offsides. Still, the match came to an anticlimactic end as Austin FC was unable to get one in goal and lost 2-0.
Besler, who has seen the ebbs and flows of his Sporting Kansas City, his club of 12 years, said that it takes patience to be a successful team. Still, he's impressed that Austin FC has made as much ground as they have in their expansion year.
"I understand that it's going to be a process, and we are in our fifth game of our existence, but the fact that we're at where we are at isa good sign," Besler said. "Towards the last third of the season, that's when hopefully we can peak and look a lot like our final product."
Austin FC will have a chance to snap their two-match losing streak as they head to Nashville SC for their sixth-straight road match at 8 p.m.on Sunday.
Nearly half of Travis County residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated, as of Friday afternoon, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. And an even greater portion likely have immunity.
Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott estimates that around 70% of local residents have some form of immunity to COVID-19, either because they have recovered from the disease or are vaccinated. This is approaching the threshold for herd immunity.
"We're starting to approach that 70% mark of combined disease and vaccination, so we may start to see some significant changes when it comes to disease trends," he told council members and county commissioners on Tuesday.
Escott arrived at this percentage by assuming that there is no overlap between those who have had COVID and those who have been vaccinated. "While there's certainly some overlap … there does not seem to be a lot of overlap between those two," he said.
Herd immunity occurs when enough people are immune to a disease that it is unlikely for someone who contracts the disease to spread it. With no one to infect, the disease dies out.
Public health experts have said herd immunity for COVID will require around 80% of the population to be immune based on its relative infectiousness.
Although natural immunity contributes to herd immunity and is partially responsible for the sharp downturn in the number of new COVID infections in recent months, vaccination is the gold standard among experts because of the increased security it offers.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler celebrated the new CDC guidance as proof of vaccines' efficacy. "Since more people will not be wearing masks, it makes it even more important to get vaccinated," he said in a statement Friday.
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