AUSTIN, Texas - Five acres of what was once a Texas Highway Depot has become a temporary home for the homeless community.
The campsite comes after the state began cleaning up tents set-up underneath overpasses and near the ARCH earlier in the week.
The temporary campsite is off of Montopolis and 183 includes porta-potties, handwashing stations, charities and security from state troopers.
Robert Rhodes and his dog named Buster set up his tent as soon as the place opened. Rhodes said he and a friend were ready to get out of the woods."I lived in the woods and it's not safe there I had a lot of stuff stolen from us,” Rhodes said. "We seen this and thought this would be perfect, we came in here and I was like yeah this is what we need.”
Rhodes has been without a home in Austin for ten years. He’s stayed at the ARCH and underneath overpasses but needed peace, quiet and a safe place to lay his head. Rhodes prefers having law enforcement nearby. He said it guarantees the site won’t get out of hand.
A tall barbed wired fence borders the property. On the other side is Palm Harbor Homes. District Representative Eddie Rodriguez said in his statement the location gives him concern. "The surrounding communities are primarily Hispanic and exist in one of the most historically underserved parts of Austin. We all must do our part to solve this issue, but it is imperative that these communities are involved in the conversation. I will fight to ensure that my constituents have a seat at the table as the situation develops," said Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, District 51.
There are some visible tents still up downtown, Clayton Trew frequents the ARCH he said the biggest issue with the new campsite is transportation and accessibility. "Nobody is going to go, the transportation issue is a big deal but you have to understand there are so many resources and things out here that people aren't going to want to be that far away from the center of the city,” Trew said.
Trew is comfortable being near downtown he has a spot near law enforcement that makes him feel safe. Instead of pitching a tent he rolls out his sleeping bag and packs his stuff up to carry it with him throughout the day.
Business leaders are working on a separate shelter and city leaders are looking for permanent solutions. Rhodes said in the meantime he will stay at the new campsite as long as he can.
"I like this place and I'm glad the Governor Abbott actually opened that's just something we needed,” Rhodes said. “I'm going to be here as long as I can be here."