Temporary camp idea gets pushback from Austin City Council

The briefing before the Austin City Council Tuesday afternoon comes a week after it was revealed a long list of possible homeless encampment sites was whittled down to two.

"We want to be spending our resources for permanent housing opportunities and services for people to be successful in those but we also don’t have places, those strategies take longer and people need places to go now. So this is a dilemma," said Council member Kathie Tovo (District 9).

Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey told the council the sites will not be permanent. That is problematic for Council member Greg Casar (District 4).

"I believe that we can achieve shelter in all different forms but I want our staff resources to be dedicated towards helping as many people as we can as quickly as we can as effectively as possible and so I’m looking forward to a longer conversation but I am not committed to it being tiny houses. I’m not committed to it being new beds in our existing shelters. I’m not committed to it being hotels or sanctioned campsites, I want to just be the best thing it is that we can do," said Casar.

One of the sites is a former airport car lot on Manor Road between Pershing Drive and Greenwood Avenue in East Austin in District 1. The other location is along Convict Hill Road between Mopac and Brodie Lane in South Austin in District 8. The properties are owned by the city, and council members were told each location meets several search criteria. 

Residents in both locations have voiced concerns, indicating the council could be in for another fight over a crisis city leaders created nearly two years ago. Voters in May re-authorized the ban on public camping the council had struck down.

"The manager is following through on the actions that are being taken by the community at the same time I think that that most everybody that was voting for that wanted us to actually help that community and to get them off the streets and so I don’t see that vote as a vote that asked us to spend money to get people off the streets temporarily but you actually get them off. I don’t think that was a vote for us to spend our resources to do something thank you that is going to have people back on the street quickly. Because that doesn’t get us where we need to go," said Mayor Steve Adler.

The council was told that operating both sites could cost just under $3 million a year. While the council may take a pause on the camp idea, on Thursday they are scheduled to talk about it again.


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