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Austin homeless strategy officer acknowledges failure in security at Candlewood Suites after break-in costing months of repairs

(MacKenzie Kelly)

Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray has apologized after vandals broke into a city-owned hotel in the process of being converted into a homeless hotel.

The break-in was discovered on May 5 at the northwest Candlewood Suites, 10811 Pecan Park Blvd., which had been sitting vacant and unrenovated with no security protocol at the time. The incident came to light after Austin City Council member Mackenzie Kelly, who represents the area, tweeted photos of the damage to the interior.

What she said about the damages:

  • Damage spans all three floors of the building and is in nearly every room.
  • The entire hotel was stripped of copper.
  • Washers, dryers, air conditioners and electrical wiring was destroyed.
  • Kelly said she learned of people sleeping at the hotel without permission.

A memo from the city said security had yet to be initiated due to a delay in processing the request.

The memo also said it introduced security protocols after the incident, which will now be on patrol “day and night.”

“The intent had been to have security on site previous to this event,” Gray said. “It had been requested, and there was a delay in the request, so it had not been initiated. We acknowledge that as a failure and apologize.”

The city bought the hotel—now called Pecan Gardens—in August 2021 for $9.5 million with plans to convert it into 80 supportive housing units as part of the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link initiative.

The city’s Homeless Strategy Division expects occupants—individuals exiting long-term homelessness—to move in later this year or early next year.

On Thursday, City Council is poised to approve a contract with Family Eldercare, allowing them to begin renovations.


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