Neighbors worry city council won't gather feedback before vote on new homeless shelter

On Tuesday, Austin Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzalez explained the city would not be moving forward with the proposed South Austin homeless shelter on Ben White Boulevard near Bannister Lane. 

Instead, City Council is expected to vote on a plan to buy the Rodeway Inn on I-35 near Oltorf Street to start housing people. 

Interestingly, people in both areas said their biggest reservation with having a shelter nearby is the lack of communication from city leaders prior to deciding on a location.

Justin, who asked not to be identified by his last name, moved into the neighborhood near Ben White and Bannister more than a decade ago, but over the last two years, he said he noticed a big increase in the number of homeless people camping around the area.

“We've even got cameras now over at an apartment that wouldn't normally have cameras because we have homeless on our front doorstep and stuff like that,” Justin said.    

This summer, his concerns grew after City Council voted to move forward with the purchase of the building on Ben White to create a bridge housing center.

“They, I think, released it in June, at the end of June, and probably the next week I went looking for a house. I didn't want to be close to it,” said Justin.    

He said he's seen the crowd outside the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless and feared the South Austin shelter would have similar issues. Justin felt like City Council left his neighbors and himself out of the decision-making process, something he encourages them not to do at any new proposed location. 

“I think the thing is, is making a rash decision on the city's part of saying, ‘hey, this spot's open.’ And then picking it without giving the community their chance to voice it or put in their concerns of where it should be and what we should do to tackle it, as opposed to just jumping in and doing or making a decision,” Justin said.  

Now, the assistant city manager said the city is considering going a new direction in a different location. Council is expected to vote on a plan to buy the Rodeway Inn on I-35 in South Austin to start housing people.

Madeline Logan lives about a block from the motel. 

“I think it's a solution. I'm not really sure if it's a great one. That hotel, or motel, has been known for some really shady things going on, so I don't really know how they're going to turn it around quick enough,” said Logan.   

“I feel for them because they're dealing with what we just dealt with,” Justin said. 

Logan said she's on board with any solutions to help get people off the street, but the motel is not close to any homeless services she can think of and she worries the decision will be made before her community has a chance to voice their concerns. 

“It's a little too soon and it doesn't really seem like it's being thought out, so I am really nervous about that, to be honest,” said Logan.