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Camp Esperanza, the state-sanctioned homeless camp in Southeast Austin, opened in late 2019 and is home to approximate 150 people. (Jordan Vonderhaar)

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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