The local homeless population totaled 3,160 people on one day earlier this year, according to a new estimate from the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.
ECHO developed a new methodology for estimating the homeless population on a given day in late January. Using the new method against past years' data, the local nonprofit found that the 2021 estimate was slightly lower—1.1%—than last year's.
Other findings include:
- A 21.1% decrease in the sheltered homeless population between 2019 and 2021
- A 20.6% increase in the unsheltered homeless population over the same time period
A new method
ECHO typically conducts an in-person point-in-time count—an annual homeless census—each January. The 2020 point-in-time count was performed on Jan. 25 and found a total of 2,506 homeless people, including 1,574 who were unsheltered. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 PIT Count was canceled.
As an alternative, ECHO developed a new method for estimating a single-day snapshot using its Homeless Management Information System, which tracks individual information and demographics over time. It pulled data from Jan. 28, 2021.
Because of differing methodologies, ECHO warns that this year's estimate and past point-in-time count data should not be compared. "To use an analogy, the differences between this method and the traditional PIT Count method are akin to the differences between visually counting as many cars as possible in Travis County for a few hours on a single day in 2020, pulling DMV records for cars registered in Travis County on a single day in 2021, and comparing the two to determine how the number of cars has changed year to year," the nonprofit explained in a Friday press release.
ECHO plans to use this new method to provide monthly snapshots in addition to the annual PIT Count.
Although many Austinites feel the homeless population has increased in size over the past year, ECHO points to the data as an indicator that this is unlikely. Instead, the increased visibility of the city's homeless population is likely due to pandemic-related measures, such as the distribution of tents by service providers to encourage homeless people to isolate and CDC guidelines not to disrupt homeless camps, which the city of Austin observed.
"When taken together, these health and safety measures increase the visibility of homelessness in public places, but our data indicate this visibility is not reflective of a rise in the number of Austinites who are experiencing homelessness," Director of Research and Evaluation Akram Al-Turk said in a statement.
This could soon change, however. "We anticipate a possible delayed rise in homelessness when the eviction moratorium and unemployment benefits end, as rents continue rising, and people feel safer accessing services," Vice President of Quality Assurance Sarah Duzinski said during a Friday press conference.
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The original Z’Tejas location on West 6th Street is closing its doors after more than 30 years on the lot to make way for new development.
Z'Tejas owner Randy Cohen told Austonia the restaurant will be open at least through the end of 2022, possibly through March 2023.
Cohen said the owners—Larry McGuire of McGuire Moorman Lambert Hospitality—of the land have something new planned, though he’s not exactly sure what. Additionally, Cohen said maintenance costs for the old building were becoming prohibitively expensive.
“I think the people who own the dirt will tear it all down and build condos or some other development,” Cohen said. “I mean, it's a 60-year-old building, Z'Tejas has been here for 33 years and before that, it was something else. So it's just progress, that's all."
The restaurant isn’t going away though—Cohen said Z’Tejas is already looking for a new spot in the downtown area to move into. Z’Tejas also has a location in Avery Ranch, another in the works for Kyle and two in Arizona.
“We have all our ducks in a row right now and the management team is all rowing in the right direction,” Cohen said. “We're just excited, we're excited to build this iconic brand back.”
Once he finds a new place, Cohen plans to bring along its mural, “The Last Zupper,” which features Willie Nelson, Matthew McConaughey and Barbara Jordan. Cohen also plans for the adjoining ghost kitchen, Woo Woo Burgers, to follow to the new downtown location.
“We're still booking events through the end of December,” Cohen said. “Come ‘Z' me at Z’Tejas, we'd love to see you before we’re gone.”
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Two towers could be coming just south of the Austin American-Statesman’s former headquarters in the South Central Waterfront district.
According to city filings, the proposed planned unit development agreement is set for 200 East Riverside Drive, an area Project Connect’s Blue Line is slated to pass by someday.
Carrying this out involves removing the existing building, which is a state office complex and surface parking.
The new towers in place would reach just over 400 feet at their maximum and include office space and space for retail on the ground level. The mix of office and retail is a trend that’s been cropping up in downtown sites like the Perennial and the Meta tower.
The proposal on a plot of about four acres aims to incorporate green infrastructure and create a lively environment for pedestrians. It’d also be adjacent to the 118-acres of the South Central Waterfront Initiative, which is aimed at enhancing connections to and along the waterfront over the next couple of decades.
The filing lists architects STG Design, a group involved with work on the sailboat-like Google tower.
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