AUSTIN, Texas - On Monday afternoon, the Texas Department of Transportation started clearing homeless camps in the state right of way — under overpasses — at Governor Greg Abbott’s direction.
At West Gate Boulevard and SH 71, state troopers stood by as TxDOT crews began clearing the camp there.
Needle after needle, trash, shoes, tents were found and the smell of human waste was overwhelming.
New signs were posted in the underpass area saying the cleanups of state right of way will be weekly and additionally as needed.
Governor Abbott tweeted saying “it’s a slow process and won’t be completed in one day, but steady progress is being made.”
Hours earlier at Burnet Road and US 183, one of the locations scheduled for cleaning, people who live there were getting ready.
Andrea Aguilar moved her belongings closer to the curb.
“Respectfully, I’m on City property. You know I’m not camping under there, I’m going to let them clean, and then I’m going to go back,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar says she’s been homeless for about seven months. She says it’s hard to get into shelter because she has a dog, Titan, her best friend. He keeps her safe.
“However, even with a dog I’m still not going to the woods. I’m not going to the tracks, I’m not going to the green belt. There’s no real safe place for us to go besides this bridge,” she said.
Aguilar says she wishes she could speak with the Governor face to face.
“At the end of the day, coming and cleaning out from under the bridge...there still has to be a solution of where we’ve got to go. It’s inhumane,” she said.
“It just somehow doesn’t seem right that you just drag them away and say ‘I’m sorry, no you can’t be there,” said Suzanne Rabb with House The Homeless.
Service providers and advocates like House The Homeless were talking with folks at camps Monday morning preparing them for what was about to happen. House The Homeless board member Will Hyatt was handing out Cap Metro bus passes.
“Ultimately we’re just going to have to get a facility similar to Haven For Hope in San Antonio where it’s a fenced setting where the police who, God bless them, they’re trying hard to do the right thing and they’ve got a tough job, they’ll have a place to take them,” Hyatt said.
It took TxDOT several hours to clean the camp at SH 71 and West Gate Boulevard. They have 16 more camps to go. TxDOT says they’re clearing debris not people.