Austin City Hall notebook: designated homeless campsites are back on the table

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Tents have become a common sight throughout Austin, including along downtown Cesar Chavez Street, but with the passage of Proposal B, the city may now consider moving homeless people to homeless homes. designated sites. (Ben Thompson / Community Impact newspaper)

With the homeless ordinances included in Proposal B, which prohibits camping and sleeping in public among other activities, due to go into effect on May 11, Austin city council members voted unanimously for explore possible short-term alternatives to the city’s unregulated settlements on May 6. Meet.

Discussion of temporary options for providing space for homeless people who are homeless arose out of a resolution drafted by District 9 Council member Kathie Tovo asking city staff to explore the creation of “designated campsites” across the city. city.

“It is clear that voters have indicated that they want a more balanced use of public space, and we are going to do so in our city in a compassionate and humane way,” Tovo said. “Our emergency shelters are at full capacity and I understand Camp Esperanza – the designated camping area set up by the state – is also at full capacity. So when people in camps ask where to go, we must have places to suggest. “

Council had been considering the idea of ​​regulated campgrounds in the city as temporary options for people experiencing homelessness as recently as 2019. However, Mayor Steve Adler said staff members had refused to ‘to move forward with the establishment of sites at the time due to concerns about the permanence of the camps. and the mixed success of similar models used in other cities.

On Thursday, Adler and several council members said they still had concerns about ensuring that all designated campsites are truly temporary, while also focusing on the city’s ultimate goal of housing those without. – shelter rather than moving them from one place to another.

District 4 Council Member Greg Casar also asked staff to consider whether an extension of the city’s current strategy of using hotels as temporary housing sites could be more cost effective than building the infrastructure. a series of new campgrounds, which may require water and lighting. , storage, security and parking as well as laundry, shower and toilet.

As for the location of the campgrounds, City Manager Spencer Cronk has been tasked with identifying at least 10 opportunities spread across the 10 city council districts. He is also responsible for designing forums for the board and members of the public to discuss the choice of site.

Cronk is now expected to present an initial report on budgeting, building and locating potential campgrounds to council on May 14, followed by a presentation on the final cost of the initiative, timeline and potential financial partners by June 1 at the latest.

In addition to the campgrounds, Cronk has also been tasked with researching land in the city to accommodate “tiny reception facilities”. These temporary accommodation sites could be set up on land owned by the city, community partners or other government entities. Further information on this angle must be communicated to the board by July 1 at the latest.

While the council has instructed Cronk to quickly come up with site proposals, no new campgrounds designated by the city will emerge until the ordinances in Proposal B come into effect. And although the public campground is officially public. criminalized next week, Cronk said the city would take a phased approach to raising awareness of existing unregulated camps.

“We will enforce and enforce the ordinances that have been approved by the voters in a humane and safe manner. It is important for all of our residents to know that even with several departments teaming up in their implementation efforts, this will not happen. May 11. It will be a process that will take time, ”he said.

A city spokesperson did not respond to a request for more information on the enforcement of the reinstated camping ban on May 7.



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