AUSTIN, Texas - The governor of California is proposing the state spend more than a billion dollars to tackle the homeless crisis. The move has Austin Mayor Steve Adler calling on the governor of Texas to do the same.
"I have to admit I’m a little envious of the attention the governor of California is giving to the challenge of homelessness," said Adler. "The challenge is much greater than ours is in Austin and one of the reasons why as a council we said we are going to make this a top priority now is so that we don't end up in a place that California is in."
There are about 2,255 people experiencing homelessness on Austin streets, according to the city’s 2019 point in time count. The city is currently in the process of converting hotels and motels into housing options.
"There are a lot of things that are happening on the ground that are really good like the HOST team which consist of our police departments, EMS and social workers, out talking to people,” Adler said. “We also have with the housing bond and opportunities the city is doing with creating more affordable housing."
Meanwhile, people are seen camping underneath overpasses and along roadways. Some people have made their way to the state-sanctioned homeless campsite in east Austin. A representative from the Texas Division of Emergency Management said there are about 80 people on site. Other agencies like Austin Travis County EMS and the Texas Department of Public Safety were also seen assisting at the campsite.
Robert Rhodes has been at the camp since it opened back in November. He said the increase has made the site less tolerable with cold showers and hot meals reduced to emergency ration meals.
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"I figured it would be a lot safer than where I was at in the woods and it was for a little while but the place has gotten worse in the past couple of months,” Rhodes said. "Somebody's got to do something."
According to a city spokesperson, the city of Austin budgeted $63.2 million this fiscal year to address the issue of homelessness. The state has provided about $697,978, not including the funding the state provides directly to homeless services in Austin.
“I wish our state was more engage with housing with medical assistance and with helping to provide more permanent housing,” Adler said. “This challenge didn't happen overnight it's not going to get solved overnight but there's a lot of work being done."
The annual point in time count will be on January 25th. The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition is searching for additional volunteers to help. For more information visit ECHO's website