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Nearly 28,000 people have viewed a four-minute YouTube video about "massive problems"—including trash, drug use, fires and human waste behind backyard fences—caused by a homeless encampment in Austin's Windsor Park neighborhood.
Massive problems in the Windsor Park creek www.youtube.com
Kevin Ludlow, a Windsor Park resident and former Libertarian candidate for the Texas House, filmed the growing encampment over several months. He compiled the video, titled "Massive problems in the Windsor Park creek," to share on a private neighborhood Facebook group.
Shortly after it was posted on Sunday, someone shared it on Reddit, where it has garnered more than 1,400 comments.
Ludlow said he posted the video after spending months speaking with people who live in the encampment and filming its expansion.
Although he sympathizes with their plight, Ludlow said, he also worries about violence and other risky behaviors.
A fire in the encampment on June 21 that could have damaged the neighboring homes had it been allowed to spread, he said, and the recent killing of a 58-year-old woman on nearby East 51st Street on July 20 also concerns him. Austin police arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with the killing, which happened at night outside her apartment, but did not describe a motive.
The video also shows a growing collection of trash, syringes and feces, which Ludlow said runs into the backyards of the mid-Austin neighborhood east of I-35.
"For as much sympathy as I have for the people who are out there, surely we shouldn't be subjected to having thousands of pounds of human excrement dumped on our property," he said.
Ludlow said more should be done to address the issue, though he recognizes the city faces challenges.
"I think they want to do something," he said. "I just don't think they have a tenable solution that's available to them."
In search of a solution
Austin residents facing issues related to encampments are encouraged to call the nonemergency 311 line. Due to the pandemic, however, the city has implemented a moratorium on clean-up efforts.
The city's watershed protection department, which last cleaned the encampment in Windsor Park in early March, plans to go to the council next month to secure funding for an emergency contract, which would allow its staff to resume cleanups with new COVID protocols, a spokesperson wrote in an email to Austonia.
The Windsor Park Neighborhood Association plans to discuss solutions at a meeting this Saturday, which was planned before Ludlow's video was shared.
"I've been here for 18 years," the group's president, Dan Strub, told Austonia. "[The encampment] goes back as far as I can remember."
While the encampment has grown in the last year or two, Strub said, residents are reluctant to call the police "about much of anything that isn't directly crime-related these days."
The Windsor Park encampment sits on public property - along Little Tannehill Branch Creek, between Broadmoor Drive and 52nd Street, Strub said.
There is little that city officials or police can do to force campers elsewhere for now. Last year, the Austin City Council abolished the city's ban on public camping, but a petition aimed at reinstating the ban received 24,000 signatures and may lead to a referendum in November.
On Tuesday, a consultant hired to study the city's homeless problem told the Austin City Council that punitive measures like encampment sweeps are ineffective and should be replaced with more trash pick-ups and on-site safe-needle exchanges.
While not everyone agrees on allowing public camping, Strub said, he believes the neighbors are interested in helping the homeless community rather than penalizing it.
"I think there are a lot of folks in this neighborhood who are very sympathetic to that view," Strub said.
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17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA softball is over. What's next for Cat?
Nearly two decades after her debut with the University of Texas and 17 years after her first Olympic gold, softball icon Cat Osterman stepped off the Olympic pitcher's mound for the last time with a silver medal to take back home.
Osterman, a three-time Olympian who has been called the "Michael Jordan of softball," will officially retire from the international realm at 38 after a decorated career that included Olympic golds, years of retirement and plenty of adversity—from a worldwide pandemic to dashed gold-medal dreams.
Osterman and her crew left Tokyo on a bittersweet note on Tuesday with a silver medal in hand.
Osterman with Team USA in 2008. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
Osterman in the final in 2021. (Antoni Majewski/Twitter)
After a year of sparse in-person training and over a decadelong hiatus, Team USA and Osterman flew to the finals. In five games, the team beat Italy (2-0), Canada (1-0), Mexico (2-0), Australia (2-1), and Japan (2-1).
Deja vu struck in the final match. On one side, Osterman and fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott took the mound; on the other was the 39-year-old Yukiko Ueno, a familiar foe who helped the team beat Team USA last go-round.
"Just like 13 years ago," Ueno said in a press conference, "we were facing each other in the final."
Ueno, who had lost hopes at gold to Osterman in '04, outpitched her longtime opponent with six scoreless innings as Team USA was held to just three hits. The same team that squandered their gold-medal hopes 13 years before had done it once again.
Your Tokyo 2020 Olympic Silver Medalists 🇺🇸#TokyoOlympics | @TeamUSA pic.twitter.com/MOMNOedHUd
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) July 27, 2021
"There's a little bit of disappointment in not bringing home the gold since that's the eye on the prize when you go over there and you know you have a shot at it," Osterman told Austonia. "But more than anything, I'm very proud of the way our team handled everything that was part of this journey and not just the six games."
It's that very loss at the 2008 Olympics that partially motivated Osterman to get back on the mound. She officially put down the glove in 2015 after six seasons with the USSSA Pride, took time with family and began coaching at Texas State University.
Osterman helped ace Randi Rupp to greatness while a coach at Texas State University. (Active Voice Health/Twitter)
She thought her Olympic endeavors were well over—until talks of reinstating softball into the Games reentered the conversation.
"It wasn't until 2016 or 2017, that it ever crossed my mind to possibly put the USA uniform on again," Osterman said. "After the World Championships in 2010, I walked away, and I thought that my career on the international stage was done. So this was a pleasant kind of new opportunity."
Three years after facing any competition, Osterman was on the field once more with world-class athletes. Some, like Osterman and Abbott, had been playing together long enough to form a formidable "Fire and Ice" duo on the mound. Others had just graduated college.
Osterman said playing with a younger generation of athletes was one of the most rewarding aspects of this year's Games.
"It can be very different when you have 24- and 38-year-olds on the same field," Osterman said. "The adversity put us in some challenging positions and we came through with flying colors. And this group will forever be special just because what we had to go through is so different."
While on the mound, Osterman's job was to give the team a calm start. Off of the field, she felt her role had much of the same effect: she knew that new Olympic feeling, and she served as a deep breath to her first-time teammates.
"There's no words to explain how nervous and excited you get knowing that the whole world can be watching," Osterman. "I think using those emotions and figuring out how to get all our butterflies lined up and going in the right direction, so that way we were all moving together, was kind of my role outside of pitching."
We've heard her retire once before, but this time Osterman said she's gone for good—even from coaching. After her final time with Team USA on Sept. 27, she plans on returning to Austin, where she'll look to work for a nonprofit.
A gold and two silvers will have to do for one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. softball history.
"To be able to say you're a three-time Olympic medalist is a pretty special deal, right?" Osterman. "I played for a long time. But those are the pinnacle, in my mind, and kind of what elicits the dream to keep playing."
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Hospitals are facing a "significant" increase in admissions of pregnant women due to COVID-19 complications, Austin-Travis County health officials say, revealing what could be a long-term side effect of the virus.
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes met with three maternal medicine specialists on Monday morning to warn of yet another COVID-19 Delta variant concern: severe cases of the disease affecting unvaccinated mothers-to-be.
The doctors said unvaccinated pregnant women face an increased risk of preterm births, long-term effects, preeclampsia, ICU stays, stillbirths, being put on life support and even death if they are unvaccinated.
"We are really concerned that we are not getting that population of folks to hear this message of the safety of vaccines, so today we're assembled, one and all to say, wear a mask and please get vaccinated," Walkes said. "Vaccinations are the way to prevent severe disease and hospitalizations and death."
Medical Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at St. David's Women's Center of Texas Dr. Kimberly DeStefano said 95% of pregnant women admitted with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, stressing that all pregnant and lactating women should get the vaccine not only to protect themselves but to protect their babies from infection, which can be passed through breastmilk or birth.
"We know that the earlier in pregnancy you are vaccinated, the more antibodies are present at the time of birth for the infant," DeStefano said. "This is something that's very important, both during the pregnancy and postpartum."
Catching COVID-19 while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the baby, particularly because it increases the risk of preterm births. Baylor Scott & White Maternal Obstetrics Chief of Maternal Medicine Dr. Jessica Ehrig, said that preterm births are one of the "biggest impacts" on childhood development.
"We know that (preterm births) can have long-term effects depending on how early a baby's born," Ehrig said. "It increases the risk for long term respiratory issues, for blindness sometimes (and) for neurologic development delays."
Since mid-July, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steep rise that sent the city back to recommending Stage 4 guidelines. As the seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations surpassed 50 admissions, Stage 5 guidelines could be on the horizon. The city reported 54 new admissions and 546 total new cases on Friday.
Delta is more contagious than chickenpox, Walkes said, and even vaccinated individuals can catch and spread the virus without symptoms. The group of doctors asked everyone, especially pregnant women, to mask while in public as local hospitals pass the Stage 5 threshold.
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