Plan to house senior homeless with disabilities in Northwest Austin revealed with pushback

The new organization taking over a controversial property intended to help house the homeless in Northwest Austin presented their plan to neighbors on Wednesday.

Some living near the old Candlewood Suites on Pecan Park Boulevard still have concerns about neighborhood safety after unwanted visitors were found on the property over the summer.

Neighbors living near the property gathered at Austin Councilwoman for District 6 Mackenzie Kelly’s open house Wednesday evening to find out what might be coming to their neighborhood.

Over the summer, people were caught on camera trespassing at the Candlewood Suites Hotel in Northwest Austin which at the time was vacant.

Since, Family Eldercare has taken over the property and renamed it Pecan Gardens.

"Initially I was against this project, because I didn’t feel the community had the opportunity to provide the feedback that they should have, and they should have their voices heard in the location selection. However, now that the council has approved it, I want to move forward and ensure this is the best project possible and that we have that input from the community," Councilwoman Kelly said.

The Director of Family Eldercare, Shontell Gauthier, said it’s being renovated into 78 units of permanent housing for homeless people with disabilities who are 55 years or older.

"We’re going to be successful because we’re going to put wrap services around this project, so that the folks living there will be successful, stable," Gauthier said.

She said there will be a vetting process for who can live there, everyone will sign a lease, there will be rules to follow, 24 hour security, a fence around the building, and only one way to come and go.

"We intend to develop a safe community, to foster safety for the neighborhood and the residents," Gauthier said.


Some residents who live nearby are skeptical.

"I don’t think there’s any way they can control the folks who move in there," District 6 resident Sharon Blythe said. "We could have them roaming around these neighborhoods and if they have disabilities, mental disabilities or other disabilities, that’s a danger to those people."

Northwest Commander for the Austin Police Department, Courtney Daniel, said this project is an example of a long-term solution for a complicated issue.

"Police tend to get called for a lot of things and a lot of times we can only put on a band-aid for a very complex issue, and we can’t really get to the root of anything or help as much as we want to, so I think it’s really important that we partner with our local community, partner with our council people, partner with our local businesses and the community members themselves to come up with a holistic solution for some of these more complex problems," Daniel said.

Gauthier said the funds for renovations and services are coming from the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will pay for the rest through Project Based Vouchers.