Since Windsor Park resident Kevin Ludlow posted a video showing trash, human waste and drug use in a growing encampment behind his home last weekend, more than 60,000 people have viewed it on YouTube, hundreds have reached out to him directly and the site has been cleaned up.

Now, the area looks "really great," Ludlow said, adding that a long-term solution is still needed.


Massive problems in the Windsor Park creek video released Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. www.youtube.com


The camp is along Little Tannehill Branch Creek between Broadmoor Drive and 52nd Street.

The cleanup, the result of a city contract with local nonprofit The Other Ones Foundation, began on Tuesday and wrapped up on Friday.

A TOOF spokesman said the group regularly cleans up similar camps around the city. The city called them about Windsor Park last Monday - the day after the video was posted and drew 25,000 views in 24 hours.

"There's so much to do, that it wasn't in our rotation until the people living around there (Windsor Park) called the city," said Max Moscoe, community engagement coordinator with TOOF.

TOOF, which employs people who are homeless at $15 an hour, has worked on similar cleanup efforts around the city since beginning a $720,000 year-long contract with the city last October. The group was established in 2018 with a pilot program through the city.

Encampment clean-ups had been paused since March because of pandemic-related health concerns.

Attempts to speak with Council Member Greg Casar, whose district includes the camp, were unsuccessful, but a spokesperson said Ludlow contacted his office three weeks ago about the camp.

Since then, Casar's office has been organizing efforts to get the area cleaned up and help those who live there access support and mental-health services, spokesman Braden Latham-Jones said.

"They've been able to get a few people into housing," Latham-Jones said. "The video came out, which brought a lot more scrutiny, [but] the process, regardless of the video, is the same."

Ludlow said he believes the video was a catalyst.

"There's no doubt about it that the video has had a massive impact on the response from the city," Ludlow told Austonia. "I don't think they want to dismiss it, but putting it out there to the public definitely garnered the type of reaction where they could not ignore it."

Raising awareness

While the city was aware of the encampment, many people who live in the area around it were not. It is nearly invisible from the streets that line it, blocked from view by homes and apartment buildings.

Dan Strub, president of the Windsor Park Neighborhood Association, said it has been there for 18 years but had grown recently.

"Truth be told, I don't think many people were aware of the size of the encampment before the video," Strub said. "I live here, and I wasn't aware of what was going on back there."

Hundreds of Austinites reached out to Ludlow after he posted and many offered to volunteer at future clean-ups, he said.

His footage also resonated with Austinites in other areas that are facing similar issues.

Lisa Novack owns a condo in the Riverside neighborhood east of I-35. Since the city repealed its ban on public camping last summer, she has noticed that the homeless encampment along the Riverside Drive median has grown.

Novack feels compassion for the people who live there, but she also worries about safety and the lack of regulations and would like to see the ban reinstated.

"I watched that YouTube video of the people with them in their backyard just camping along the river," she said, "and just said, 'Oh my god, I feel guilty for ever complaining,' because they aren't necessarily in mine."

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(Roschetzky Photography/Adobe)

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