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Austin Is Looking To Set Up Camps For Those Experiencing Homelessness. Here's Where They Might Be.

Several tents can be seen outside of Austin City Hall as part of a demonstration by activists and people experiencing homelessness.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Several tents were set up outside Austin City Hall as part of a demonstration by activists and people experiencing homelessness in response to the vote on Proposition B.

The Austin City Council is considering dozens of locations for city-sanctioned encampments for people experiencing homelessness.

The decision to vet the sites follows a citywide referendum reinstating a ban on public camping, limitations on panhandling, and a prohibition on resting in certain areas of Austin.

On Tuesday, the council got a list of 45 possible locations as the city rolls out the revived rules in what it calls a "phased" approach over the summer. Late last week, city staff outlined criteria for suitable sites and said they were eyeing 70 tracts of city-owned land that could accommodate encampments.

City officials say they want each site to have security, storage spaces, access to transportation and trash pickup, as well as access to water and electricity hookups. They estimate each encampment could cost $1.3 million a year for a 50-person site and nearly $1.9 million for a 100-person site.

Here's a map of the proposed sites.

And here's a list of most of the sites under consideration, according to a presentation to City Council on Tuesday:

• Walter E. Long Park, 11455 Decker Lake Road
• John Trevino Jr. Metro Park, 9501 FM 969
• Walnut Creek Sports Park, 7800 Johnny Morris Road
• Givens Recreation Center, 3811 E. 12th St.
• Fleet Service Yard, 8401 Johnny Morris Road
• Colony Park, 7201 Colony Look Drive
• 3511 Manor Road
• Tannehill Lane
• Onion Creek Metro North, 8652 Nuckols Crossing Road
• 7720 ½ Kellam Road
• Decommissioned wastewater treatment plant, 5400 E. William Cannon
• FM 812 at FM 973

• West Slaughter Lane and 8908-9006 Cullen Road
• Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center, 2609 Gonzales St.
• South Austin Recreation Center, 1100 Cumberland Road
• Roy G. Guerrero Metro Park, 400 Grove Blvd.
• Bolm Road District Park, 6700 Bolm Road
• Edward Rendon Delgado Pavilion
• 4800-4906 Bolm Road
• Levander Loop
• 1311 Tillery St.
• Gustavo "Gus" L. Garcia District Park, 1201 East Rundberg Lane
• 7211 North Interstate 35
• 7309 North Interstate 35
• Mary Moore Searight Metropolitan Park, 907 West Slaughter Lane
• Lakeline Neighborhood Park, South Lakeline Blvd.
• 12101 Anderson Mill Road
• 10900 FM 2222
• Commons Ford Park, 614 North Commons Ford Road
• Walnut Creek/Havens
• Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Drive
• Sir Swante Palm Neighborhood Park East, 3rd Street
• Duncan Park, 900 West 9th St.

• Patterson Park, 4200 Brookview Road
• Bull Creek Park, Lakewood Drive
• Ryan Drive Warehouse
• Circle C
• Dick Nichols District Park, 8011 Beckett Road
• 11800 FM 1826
• 9513 Circle Drive
• 4905 Convict Hill Road
• Norwood Tract
• Austin Recreation Center, 1301 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Last week, multiple city departments laid out the initial criteria for the sites. The city wants locations hosting 50 people to be 2 acres, while encampments hosting 100 people should be at least 4 acres.

City staff emphasized the list is preliminary. Some possible sites are on parkland that gets a lot of use — like the Onion Creek Metropolitan, Mary Moore Seawright, Gus Garcia, Bull Creek, Patterson, Walnut Creek, Roy G. Guerrero and Palm Neighborhood parks.

Kimberly McNeeley, director of Parks and Recreation, told council the resolution that triggered the review suggested parkland could be on the table — at least for the initial list.

"I interpreted ... that parkland was to be part of the consideration ... not that it would be selected, but that it would be considered," she said.

The majority of council members argued certain sites within their own districts would not work for various reasons.

Some properties are in areas at risk of wildfire. Other sites are already in the process of being developed, like the land that formerly housed a Home Depot at St. Johns and Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park. Another site, 1311 Tillery, is Evergreen Cemetery.

Twenty-five of the sites on the initial list were pulled because they are in areas at risk of flooding.

District 10 Council Member Alison Alter said the fact that council members were against so many of the suggestions showed how early on the city is in the process. She emphasized the resolution simply asked staff to look into city-owned land; there's no guarantee these sites will be used.

"I think that just underscores this is a very preliminary list ... that this is still just a first step to see if we could identify a city-owned property that we might want to pursue as designated camping," she said. "But, again, no decision has been made."

Alter said sites that aren't actively being used as park or preserve land would best fit, and asked staff to find the "sweet spot." McNeeley said two parks that aren't fully developed could fit that bill — one on Bolm Road and another 200-acre tract off Johnny Morris Road that's in part of the Walnut Creek Sports Complex.

Austin's Parks and Recreation Department, the Austin Housing and Finance Corporation, Austin Public Works, the Austin Fire Department, Austin Resource Recovery and Austin Water will all have a hand in maintaining and managing the encampments.

The city aims to put at least one encampment in each of Austin's 10 City Council districts, using either city-owned or private land.

The Austin Fire Department said the camps will not be permitted to use pallets or other potentially combustible building materials on structures. Individual camp sites will be spaced at least 20 feet apart, and cooking and open flames will be allowed only in certain areas.

The list of possible locations is not yet final. City staff will come back before the council with another update — and a more concrete timeline on when they could be propped up — on June 2.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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