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Along with the Central Austin pressure zones, the South, North and Northwest A zones (pictured in green above), are no longer under a boil-water notice as of mid-day Monday.
The remaining five zones are undergoing state-mandated sampling, with results due tomorrow. Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros said he is hopeful that the notice will be lifted for those areas where it remains in effect during a press conference on Wednesday.
Testing of water began Sunday after the notice went into effect by Austin Water last week and is still in effect for other parts of Austin (in yellow above). The utility issued a boil water notice after a power outage at the Ullrich Water Plant and low pressure system wide occurred amid a historic winter storm event that swept over Texas. Over a hundred public water mains burst or broke, as well as "tens of thousands" of similar events on private property, such as residences and businesses, Meszaros said. "The biggest remaining task we have ... is repairing water main breaks," he added.
According to Austin Water, once the notice is lifted, residents should:
- Run all cold water faucets for one minute.
- Flush automatic ice makers, make three batches of ice and discard.
- Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle.
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:
- Water service
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.
Exhibit A: Why we should not allow homeless camping in public parks.
That's the tweet. #atxcouncil pic.twitter.com/jV29nMwRQM
— Mackenzie Kelly ❗️ (@mkelly007) May 14, 2021
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.
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As a lifelong Texan and 18-year Austin resident, street artist Goodluck Buddha wants to keep Californians out of Central Texas to preserve the city he loves.
As his business travels took him to states like California, he started posting his art there with a message to Californians in 2013. Buddha has many characters he creates but one, in particular, was created to draw attention to what he saw as a growing problem. Spotted all over Los Angeles is a skeletal monk holding a sign that says one of the following: "get out while you can," "total system failure" and most polarizing, "Austin, TX is at capacity, don't move there."
Buddha started developing his persona as an artist around 2013, keeping his art under wraps for the sake of his family and day job in the security industry. He asked his real name not be used on account of the work's potentially illegal nature. He had always admired street art and saw it as a way to interact with the community.
His disdain for the California migration started as a trendy joke but as the trickle of transplants turned more into a steady stream in the early 2010s, it started to seem like each new person he met was coming from Los Angeles or Beverly Hills.
"Austin started becoming a little popular with the California folks and everybody started moving here slowly and then it became kind of a problem," Buddha said.
The problem is not Californians, Buddha said, but the amount of money they come with, which he believes is driving up the cost of living and making it harder for the average Austinite to afford living here.
"I wanted to go straight to the source and put it out there for them to see that there's an issue—I don't know if they see it that way," Buddha said. "There's a lot of people that were able to make it with one full-time job and live in a nice house and now they're having to work a full-time job and a side hustle and then a side gig. It's making people more focused on trying to make money versus just living and having a good time."
Buddha can relate—while he would like to take his art career full-time, he is also a father and waiting until his children leave home to take a risk like that. He said he remembers a time when local artists could make a living doing what they loved while Austin nurtured them and wore the title "Live Music Capital of the World" like a badge of honor.
His art has since made its way to other big cities that he also goes to for business travels, including Portland and New York. And until he goes full time, he sells his art on social media.
"I always had this urge just to leave my mark and put stuff up," Buddha said. "It's kind of like a renegade art movement."
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