Local businesses remain skeptical after homeless encampment cleaned up in South Austin

Local businesses remain skeptical even after huge homeless encampment located at Pack Saddle Pass and U.S. Highway 71 went from full of tents to entirely empty. They wonder how long it will stay that way.

The City of Austin cleaned up the encampment after it was deemed a public health and safety risk. 

Inside Headspace Salon, there is now a sense of temporary peace.


"You can definitely feel a shift in this area. It's definitely been a huge relief in the last two weeks since the cleanup happened," said Laura North, co-owner of Headspace Salon.

The newly cleaned up homeless encampment resided just feet away from the salon for the past four years. The owners of the salon say they were begging for it to be cleaned up because it used to be scary to come to work every day.

"We cleaned up feces. There were drugs and violent behavior happening toward our staff and to our clients. Definitely there was vandalism," said Erin Mutschler, co-owner of Headspace Salon.

Since 2021, the City of Austin has moved 470 homeless people from high-risk encampments to temporary bridge shelters through the HEAL initiative, and 60 of those people were from the Pack Saddle Pass encampment.

"Definitely a huge relief. However, I feel skeptical that it's going to last," said Mutschler.

She said they are skeptical because these owners know that more than 60 homeless people lived in that encampment, so where did all the other people go?

"They went a couple of blocks down and so that's really unfortunate and scary," she said.

Now instead of being a few feet away from the problem, the salon is now a few blocks away.

"Everybody's still pretty scared, especially the neighborhoods behind us," said North.

While the salon has not seen any real crime since the cleanup, they're not giving up the fight until the City of Austin comes up with a real solution to help the homeless problem.

"I think that nothing's really going to change unless everybody kind of comes together as a community," said North.