Abbott: TxDOT to start cleaning underpass homeless camps as soon as Monday

On Tuesday morning, the Austin City Council heard a briefing on strategies and initiatives to end homelessness.  

The City's consulting Homeless Strategy Officer Lori Pampilo Harris detailed the successes of the "Guided Path" pilot project -- an effort to help those who are often seen right outside of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.

"We asked them a few questions about why they were there, what is it that they want in terms of housing and services and from that we created a by-name list," Harris said.

Harris's report says they surveyed 99 people over two days.  

"Four of those individuals have already been housed that we took a snapshot of, out of the 99. Two have been reunited with family and 74 of them have been enrolled or referred to programs that would get them to ending their housing crisis," she said.  

Harris also made this shocking comment about some of the folks outside the ARCH: "There's an Austin transition center where parolees from across the state must come to Austin to register and then additionally it's my understanding that they have to stay in Austin. So you're wondering where the inflow is coming from...the inflow is coming from many systems who say: here's the ARCH, come here and get help."

A Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson says what Harris was saying about parolees is not true. Parolees from across the state don't have to come to Austin to register.

TDCJ says parolees are not dropped off anywhere, they are required to go back to where they lived before incarceration and check in with a parole officer within 24 hours of release.

During Council's work session, an announcement came from Governor Greg Abbott's office. TxDOT will start clearing homeless encampments in the state right of way as soon as next Monday, November 4 and just three days after the November 1 deadline the Governor gave to Mayor Adler.  

"Governor Abbott has been clear that unless the City of Austin demonstrated improvements to protect public health and safety, the State of Texas would step in to address this crisis.  With today's notice from TxDOT, the Governor is following through on his promise."

— -statement from Governor Greg Abbott's office

Notices are being posted telling folks that personal property and camp debris has to be removed before Monday or it's considered abandoned.

"I hope what is happening here next week is not just an effort to move people or to hide people," Adler said at the meeting. 

The Governor's office says the goal is to also connect those experiencing homelessness with access to resources for services and care.  

"If the Governor's actually getting involved in helping to provide real housing opportunities for people then we want to do everything we can to encourage that and to support that. But obviously I have real significant concerns," Adler said.

"If simply what happens is folks that are sleeping and not bothering anybody and aren't in anybody's way under a bridge somewhere, just get moved...that person doesn't magically disappear. They're going to be in a field somewhere, they're going to be in a creek somewhere, they're going to be in somebody's neighborhood, that doesn't solve homelessness," said Austin City Council Member Greg Casar.