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City staff estimate each sanctioned homeless camp will cost up to $1.9M annually

After Prop B's passage, Austin officials are considering a plan to establish temporary sanctioned homeless camps. (Laura Figi)

City staff have reviewed more than 70 city-owned properties that could serve as temporary sanctioned homeless camps and will present potential site options in each council district to Austin City Council on Tuesday, according to a memo issued late Friday. They estimate that each camp will cost between $1.4 and $1.9 million to operate on an annual basis and have a capacity of 50 to 100 people.

Council members voted unanimously last week to direct staff to develop a plan and a budget for temporary sanctioned encampments after the resounding victory of Proposition B in the May 1 election. The proposition, which reinstated city bans on sitting, lying, camping and panhandling in certain areas of central Austin earlier this week, forced city officials to revisit temporary sanctioned encampments, an idea they previously abandoned because of concerns around their cost and upkeep.

"Consequently, in the face of insufficient shelter capacity, sanctioned encampments may be viewed as an alternative to illegal public camping, the imposition of criminal charges on the unsheltered, and the unintended consequence of increased numbers of encampments relocating into less visible, wooded areas that present high wildfire and flood risks," Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey and Parks and Recreation Department Director Kimberly McNeeley wrote in the memo.

Staff recommend that each sanctioned camp offer basic infrastructure, including:

  • Electricity
  • Water service
  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Lighting

Other services may include perimeter fencing, trash collection, laundry facilities, storage and transportation.

Sites will also require general operational staff, 24/7 security personnel and service providers, with a focus on those that can help connect homeless residents to permanent housing and offer behavioral health support.

In addition to annual costs, each site is expected to require one-time startup costs, such as extending access to electricity and water lines. Staff's preliminary analysis suggests these could range from $200,000 to several million dollars depending on the site, according to the memo.

Although Prop B passed with nearly 58% of the vote and council has directed staff to consider temporary sanctioned camps, the memo raises familiar concerns about the strategy, including the difficulty of closing such sites once opened and the possibility of ballooning operating costs. Some Austinites, including Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, have also raised concerns about the possibility of sanctioned camps on city parkland.

Others support the sanctioned camp model. Max Moscoe is community engagement coordinator for The Other Ones Foundation, a local nonprofit that helps operate the state-sanctioned homeless camp in Southeast Austin. "Having a central hub of resources directly in the place where people are staying makes access to service much easier for clients," he wrote in an email to Austonia. "It is also helpful to have people in a consistent and safe place where they can gain traction and stability."

City staff are due to issue two subsequent reports to council, in addition to Friday's memo. By June 1, they will provide a proposed implementation schedule, potential funding and possible partners that can help share the cost or provide services. By July 1, they will identify land within the city limits that could accommodate tiny home structures to serve as temporary housing and the estimated related costs.

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition conducts an annual homeless census. This year's count was canceled due to the pandemic, but in 2020 the nonprofit counted 1,574 unsheltered homeless people in the Austin-Travis County area.


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway