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City staff recommend two possible sites for sanctioned homeless camps

The city of Austin announced the possible sites amid efforts to relocate homeless residents from camps, such as the one above at Ben White Boulevard and Menchaca Road, to safe shelter. (City of Austin)

Whittling down from 70-plus possible options for sanctioned homeless camps, city of Austin staff recommended two sites for further review late Monday.


The two sites are city-owned, public transit accessible and meet most of the criteria put forward by council members, according to a recent memo. One site is located near the Mueller development in Northeast Austin, while the other is in Southwest Austin off of MoPac. They will require rezoning to allow for the installation of micro shelters that can house people on site.

Northeast Austin site

The recommended site at 3511 Manor Road in District 1 on the East side is close to the Mueller development, which offers retail amenities, as well as bus lines and the public trails. It also offers a front entrance that could provide effective site control and up to 20 covered parking spaces, which could serve homeless people living in their cars. There are some challenges associated with the site, however, including wildfire risk and an existing structure that is unusable due to a material asbestos used.

(City of Austin)

Southwest Austin site

The other recommended site at 4011 Convict Hill Road in District 8 in Southwest Austin also offers access to amenities and bus lines within a 15-minute walk as well as space for portable restrooms and showers. Its challenges include fire mitigation requirements and its distance from the city center.

Reimplenting the camping ban

Council revisited the idea of sanctioned camps in May after city voters approved Proposition B, which reinstated a local ban on public camping, among other activities. But when staff presented 45 potential site options later that month, members pushed back, citing concerns about cost, lack of transparency and wildfire risk.

The city moved ahead with a multi-phase Prop B reimplementation plan, prompting concerns that homeless residents were being forced out of camps with nowhere else to go legally or safely.

Phase 3 of the plan began on July 11, with Austin police able to make arrests in situations where homeless people refuse to vacate camps deemed dangerous, such as those in flood-prone areas or near busy roads.

Although police officials have stressed that their goal is voluntary compliance rather than arrest, there isn't enough shelter capacity or transitional housing supply to meet current demand.

"(W)e want to be clear with the community that while we are investing in additional crisis beds, like so many other cities working to actively end chronic homelessness, there will not be enough immediate shelter for all unsheltered Austinites," Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said in a July 14 press release.

Staff will brief council about the two recommended sanctioned campsites at a work session next week and could begin to gather stakeholder feedback related to the properties next month, including community meetings.

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