Contractors clean up homeless encampment in southwest Austin

Contractors working for the City of Austin, accompanied by Austin police, spent hours cleaning up a homeless encampment near US 290 and South Lamar Wednesday. 

According to Austin Public Works, the camp cleanup was one of their routine “under bridge cleanups”, which they say are not “homeless camp cleanups.” They say “under bridge cleanups” are focused only on the removal of debris and trash in the right-of-way.

Public Works posts notifications at cleanup sites 72 hours in advance. Those living at the campsites are given bags to put items in they do not want to have thrown out such as medication. Those who are homeless are not removed from the site. 

“Public Works comes out, they come out about once a month to sites like these, or camps in the greenbelt to do cleanups looking for unsafe materials or conditions to clean up but, the cleanups have not been this intense, and today it was,” said Mark Littlefield who is on the board of ECHO, a nonprofit assisting the homeless community. 

A Public Works employee when asked why this cleanup was so intense said they "couldn't speak to that." 

The Austin Police Association posted about the cleanup on Facebook, stating “The City of Austin did a good job of cleaning up trash today in the Ben White area. We wish ACL would come to town more often so the rest of the city can be cleaned up properly.”

Clint Strait is the third-generation owner of the Strait Music Company. One of his stores is across the street from the site.

“Well, I mean I think the cleanup today is good but that’s not, it will be back and they’ll have to clean it up again, and that will cost taxpayer money but I certainly like it clean more than I like it dirty,” he said. 

Strait estimates he’s spent anywhere from $3500 to $5000 since the ordinances changed 

“We caught people trying to fill up 50 gallon drums with water. I’ve since had to spend money to lock off my spigots outside," Strait said. "Every one of my dumpsters has four locks on it and, and I can’t, still keep them out of there, they break and they bolt cut every time."