City launches pilot program that aims to bring homeless Austinites weekly trash service

"I think we have all noticed that homelessness is increasing in Austin," said Taylor Cook, program manager for the City of Austin's service design lab. 

Officials say with homelessness comes homeless encampments, and with those encampments comes trash. That is why the City of Austin is launching the violet bag pilot program to bring homeless Austinites weekly trash collection services. 

"We wanna be able to leverage people who are experiencing homelessness, to help us solve those problems," Cook said. 

The pilot launched July 8. For the next six weeks, there will be four drop-off locations for trash affiliated with the program -- U.S. 183 and Ohlen Road, U.S. 183 and Cameron Road, I-35 and Cesar Chavez, and Highway 71 and Pack Saddle Pass. 

"I think that we can expect some positive results from the pilot. In which case, I would love to see this become a citywide program," Cook explained. 

Inspiration for the violet bag pilot program comes from a collaboration between the city and its Watershed Department. 

"The violet bag project came out of our efforts with the watershed department to improve some of the management of encampments on their land," Cook said. 

The city had given homeless Austinites trash bags and designated a drop-off location. City officials felt the program went well, and decided to expand the concept through the violet bag pilot program. 

"We saw a really high level of compliance and people really appreciated that service and just the dignity of being able to throw away your everyday household trash," Cook said. 

Cook says the city is also trying to use 3-1-1 data to target areas and programs that impact the homeless. Anyone who sees unsafe or unsanitary conditions is asked to report them.