AUSTIN, Texas - Sanford Howard has been living on the streets for twelve years. "I lost my wife, my house, my car, everything," he said.
On top of that, he said lost the ability to do what he loved. "I was a chef, but having a stroke took away my memory so now I can't cook," said Howard.
On Thursday, the campsite where he's been living was overrun with Austin police officers and city staff. According to Howard, their approach was a compassionate one. "They are trying to get me into a motel," he said.
This is all a part of the city's H.E.A.L. (Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link) initiative. The Austin City Council passed the item back in February. The goal was to identify four sites and connect those people to housing and resources.
"It's been very successful. We are showing about a 95 percent acceptance rate," said Councilmember Ann Kitchen (District 5).
However, this is not Proposition B enforcement. That's the item that voters passed in May, to reinstate the citywide camping ban. This goes a bit further to provide proper resources.
"What Prop B says is you can't camp in this location. What the H.E.A.L. Initiative says is we have a place for you," said Kitchen.
The people who were on Cesar Chavez near the Buford Tower on Thursday, are being moved to the Northbridge Shelter, which used to be the Country Inn and Suites at 7400 N IH 35 Frontage Rd. Howard said it was music to his ears and he truly wanted the help.
"The people that are in my position are hard to find. When you do, we just get locked up with everybody us. It's hard to single out the right people to help," he said.
Council brought up the progress of the effort at Thursday's budget session.
"In this case, the Country Inn you were able to mobilize that for the H.E.A.L. Initiative in a matter of days," said Councilmember Greg Casar (District 4).
A hotel may not be a permanent home, but for Howard, it's a step in the right direction. "I'm thanking god because I need some kind of help, something," said Howard.
The Northbridge shelter is a temporary location the city said. They will work to connect those who live there to permanent housing.
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