Bret Bourland and his wife call Ben White Blvd home. "There's an opportunity here in Austin for a man that's homeless and you want to get out of it, you've just got to make the necessary steps to do it. We've done that. We're literally dying out here," Bourland said.
The camp Bourland lives in on Ben White and Congress -- and others like it on the highway -- has become an eyesore and a problem for local business owners like Michael Cargill.
His shop, Central Texas Gunworks, is right across the highway. "You know I'm having to feed homeless, let them use the restroom and stuff like that and that's really not stuff that I should be doing, that actually hurts my business," Cargill said.
Cargill also happens to be Executive Director of Texans for Accountable Government. "And I hate to ask this question or say this but we really need our local government to do what they're supposed to do and that is step in and help out people who are in need," Cargill said.
Right after our interview with Cargill, TXDOT and Austin Police had just shown up to clean up the spot across the highway: Bedding, trash and needles. "This is a TXDOT cleanup. TXDOT once a month has a contract with the city to come and do a cleanup and what we do as officers of APD, what we do is just mainly a support role," said APD Officer Sean Rougeou.
TXDOT says the "under the bridge" cleanups happen at the same time every month. They say people living in those spots are notified in advance. TXDOT says "integral care" comes along to help those who want to be helped.
"You have some out here that don't want help. You know, they choose to be out here," Rougeou said.
Officer Rougeou says Bret and his wife aren't like that. They do want the help. And he has personally done what he could for them in the past. "I met Bret years ago out here. I worked with him to try to get him housing and stuff. We've made trips to Integral Care, I've taken him over to the clinic over on 7th street to get all the cards, their ID's, everything they need to get off the street," Rougeou said.
"He understands. He's even taken us to appointments. The man's been there and taken us. Aint too many police officers do that," Bourland said.
Bourland says he has been working with groups like ECHO on getting housing. But no luck so far. And in the meantime, the ARCH is not an option. "I've had my share of dope and everything else, I'm not saying I'm no saint but that place is no good."
I asked him if he was afraid of the ARCH. "Yes, yes there's no way I'd go down there. This is bad enough and then you've got a wife on top of that, I can't imagine having kids," Bourland said.
"What you're seeing is a consistent story all around the city where people are asking for help, they're trying to get help, they're trying to get assistance and no one is letting them in," Cargill said.
So what's next for Bret and his wife?
"Gotta go somewhere else, maybe stay out of sight, out of mind, maybe hang in there a little bit longer," Bourland said.
I did speak with ECHO by phone today. They tell me there is an assessment process and prioritization but the sad reality is several thousands have gone through that and still aren't in housing because the resources just aren't there yet.