The final phase of Proposition B enforcement began on Sunday, giving Austin Police Department the authority to arrest individuals for camping in the downtown area.
Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon and Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss what the shift to Phase 4 would look like and how the city is working to get people off the streets.
Officers have been able to arrest some homeless residents camping since Phase 3 began, though no arrests have been made thus far as police continue to employ a "harm reduction" strategy.
"I think it's important for people to know that we continue to try to keep making arrests a last resort, and finding alternative methods to accomplish Prop B implementation," Chacon said.
Chacon said officers have continued the education and outreach that began in Phase 1 of the camping ban reimplementation. According to Chacon, APD has conducted 133 site visits where they surveyed 605 people, issued 572 warnings and 22 citations to those living on the street.
"As (shelter) information comes to the officers, that is being passed along to folks that we're encountering as part of this overall initiative," Chacon said. "We also have our two designated places in the city where people are allowed to camp—McKinney Falls State Park, as well as Emma Long Park—and that information is passed along as well."
Chacon said APD is working to direct displaced people to social services and have so far connected 124 people, including 34 veterans, to organizations to obtain housing or benefits.
Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said that since the beginning of June, the City has moved 110 people in bridge shelters, opened two new converted hotel shelters and closed the sale on a third on Aug. 2, which will add 60 beds.
"That (new hotel) is going to provide deeply supportive, long-term affordable housing for 60 of the most chronically homeless individuals in our community," Grey said.
City Council has been criticized in its response to the camping ban reimplementation for not moving forward with a clear plan on where homeless people should go. Austin City Council has not said anything about approval for sanctioned homeless camps, places homeless people can stay with access to resources and without the threat of arrest, since July 20.
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Austin seems to have passed its fourth COVID peak, but public health leaders are already monitoring a new omicron-related variant that was recently detected in Texas.
Just as quickly as it came, the omicron variant that shuttered schools, businesses and holiday gatherings is finally receding, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Desmar Walkes said Friday. According to a University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium projections, the variant's caseload peaked on Jan. 9 in the Austin-Round Rock area.
But Austin Public Health is already looking to the new variation of it, dubbed the BA. 2 omicron variant, as it spreads to 40 countries including the U.S. Similar to the original "BA.1" omicron strain, the new variety shares most of omicron's characteristics but has 20 key mutations from the original. Walkes said the variant has over 80 mutations and appears to be more transmissible than the original omicron strain, though vaccines appear to behave similarly in protecting residents from serious complications.
The variant has been found in dozens of countries and is surpassing case numbers for the BA.1 omicron strain in Denmark, though researchers have so far found no difference in hospitalizations between the two omicron variants. The World Health Organization classifies all omicron strains as "variants of concern" but hasn't specified between the two.
Chief epidemiologist Janet Pichette said that while BA.2 will act similarly to its parent variant, the strain's transmissibility could cause a new spike in the area.
"We're at a critical point right now," Pichette said. "This new variant has been identified in Texas with three cases in the Houston area, so odds are that it's circulating around us right now."
For now, Pichette said cases are on the "downhill slide," while ICU admissions are expected to peak in the first week of February. With a 100% household transmission rate so far, Walkes said it's more crucial than ever to vaccinate children over five and protect other vulnerable members of the community.
"This new variant spreads more quickly and because of that we're going to see an impact on the general population," Walkes said. "It's going to find the vulnerable, and in this case it's going to affect the unvaccinated and those who cannot get vaccinated."
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Whether you became a home chef when the pandemic began or have always enjoyed crafting delicious meals, it’s undeniable that no home is complete without a cozy kitchen.
Take a peek at these five gems on the market now.
In the South Austin Parten community, this castle-like four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom stunner puts you just minutes from Austin, Dripping Springs and other nearby communities. Stark white and black contrasting features give the interiors a clean look, while a large curving staircase serves as a centerpiece for the ground floor. The chef’s kitchen is spacious, facing the living room and multiple windows, and immediately draws the eye. Upstairs you’ll find a spa-style bathroom, game room with a wet bar and Hill Country Views.This listing is held by Adam Zell and Lexie Zell.
This hyper-modern, 3,300-square-foot Scandinavian-styled home is a paradise for natural light in Hyde Park. With four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms spread across one story, the home rests on concrete columns to protect from extreme climate conditions. Inside, you’ll find crisp, clean trim in the open-plan kitchen with built-in luxury appliances and a walk-in pantry. Lofty 12-foot ceilings and gigantic windows set the tone, with a wet bar and second living room for entertaining. When you retire to the master bedroom, enjoy a warm bath in the soaking tub or enjoy the multi-output shower.
This listing is held by Austin Stowell.
In the heart of Westlake, this stacked three-story new build is a sprawling 4,483 square feet with five bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms. The home is centrally located and full of natural light, especially on the open concept first floor, which includes the kitchen, casual dining space and living area. The third floor has a bedroom and loft, perfect for the at-home worker.
This listing is held by Jen Templeton and Cheryl Albanese.
This 3,539 square foot, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom Tarrytown townhouse is newly remodeled but still holds on to its vintage charm. Bright white cabinets, a green accented island and quartzite countertops in the kitchen give the space a cheery feeling. Entering on the second floor, you’ll have to walk downstairs to get to the bedrooms, which include ensuite baths and walk-in showers. The third level bonus room is the perfect place for an at-home office.This listing is held by Cindy Fowler.
Just outside Austin in the sleepy town of Wimberley, the Backbone Ridge Ranch is one of the city’s most “iconic and pristine” properties. On nearly 50 acres of land, the house takes you into nature without getting too far from nearby cities. With 4,369 square feet, six bedrooms and six-and-a-half bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows effortlessly light the entire space. You’ll feel like a celebrity chef while cooking in the kitchen, even more so entertaining from the outdoor kitchen and living space. The 33,000-gallon quarried limestone pool is perfect for those hot Hill Country summers!This listing is held by Nicole Kessler.
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