Homelessness

KUTX Explores the topic of homelessness.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Addressing a city that has ground to a halt amid a pandemic, save for frontline workers who can’t stay home and protestors in the streets demanding cuts to the police budget, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said this time of turmoil is a chance to rebuild a more equitable city.

An encampment for people experiencing homelessness under State Highway 71 in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Austin City clerk says a group seeking to reinstate Austin's bans on sitting, camping or lying down in public doesn't have the requisite 20,000 signatures to force a referendum on Election Day.

Charlton Schrieber cools off on a July afternoon.
Mose Buchele / KUT

Ask people camped on Cesar Chavez Street by the Terrazas Branch Library how it’s going, and you won’t be surprised by the answer.

“It’s hot, very hot,” says a man named George, who didn’t want to give his last name.

A 2015 file photo of a citation for a city law that banned sitting or lying down in certain parts of Austin. Save Austin Now submitted signatures for a petition that would, among other things, reinstate the law in the downtown and UT Austin campus areas.
Pu Ying Huang / KUT

A GOP-backed group says it's collected enough signatures to put a reversal of the city's homeless ordinances on the ballot in November.

Rania Lewis helps distribute donations for individuals experiencing homelessness under I-35.
Michael Minasi / KUT

Peaceful protests outside Austin police headquarters two weekends ago were marred by destruction as people set fire to a car and the belongings of Austinites living under I-35.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Austin hit a 10-year-high in 2020, according to a new report.

Ralph Lee, who has been chronically homeless for three years, received a pre-loaded flip-phone from the city last month.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Amy Price lives in red tape. She thrives in it. And she's been at it for 25 years.

Price works at Front Steps, which manages the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless. A couple months back – before she was sheltered-in-place with her cats – she hatched a plan. A cowboy operation, she calls it, a grant application as blunt as it was simple.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As COVID-19 narrowed the capacity of groups that feed Austin's homeless, many were going hungry or simply afraid to get food at places that typically offer meals because it meant risking close contact with others.

The Salvation Army's downtown homeless shelter
Julia Reihs / KUT

Salvation Army Austin's downtown shelter was closed this weekend after 12 people there tested positive for COVID-19. All 187 people staying at the shelter have been moved to a city-leased hotel.

KUT has also confirmed the first case of COVID-19 at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless next door.

Portable bathrooms and hand washing stations installed near an encampment at the Terrazas Library just across I-35 in downtown.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

City leaders on Thursday approved a plan to expand the use of hotels for people who can't safely quarantine because of COVID-19.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A new interactive map on the City of Austin's website is aimed at helping people experiencing homelessness identify locations to get aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

City and county officials have set aside hotel rooms and the Austin Sobering Center to quarantine or isolate homeless Austinites who have or present symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The Salvation Army shelter in downtown Austin.
Julia Reihs / KUT

A person staying at its downtown homeless shelter tested positive for COVID-19, Austin Salvation Army said Friday.

The person was sharing a living space with 19 other people, but has been transferred from the shelter to a local hotel.

Julia Reihs / KUT

If the new coronavirus has proved anything, it's that uncertainty is the only certainty, that action is better than inaction, and that it's important to have hope in light of a pandemic.

Just ask Tim Mercer.

State-owned land in Southeast Austin has been turned into a homeless camp.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

On a late February afternoon, cold winds tore through the Responsible Adult Transition Town in Southeast Austin, thrashing the tarpaulin and nylon walls of its tent village. But the chill didn’t deter Robert Rhodes from making his rounds.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

State officials agreed Thursday to lease state-owned land to an Austin nonprofit for $1 a month to house homeless Austinites, with the goal of ultimately building a shelter on the 6.7-acre tract.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

For some, Austin doesn’t feel like the relaxed, artsy city they knew a couple decades ago. The city’s population has exploded in recent years, and with that has come big-city problems.

Camp R.A.T.T.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A homeless camp in an unused state vehicle maintenance yard in Southeast Austin has been growing for months. Beginning with fewer than a dozen people occupying tents and re-purposed storage units, it’s now home to more than 140.

A homeless encampment near the ARCH in downtown Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin City Council is hiring Matthew Doherty, former head of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, to help find solutions to homelessness here. Members approved his contract on a 10-1 vote Thursday – but not without some trepidation, as Doherty's eight-month contract could cost the city $95,000.

Lynda Gonzalez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Navigating school isn't easy for many kids. Juggling classes, friends and extracurricular activities can be a challenge even in the best of circumstances. But it's especially hard for kids who are experiencing homelessness.

A homeless encampment near the ARCH shelter in downtown Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As Austin seeks short-term housing for its homeless population, city staff say one option for an emergency shelter wouldn't come online for at least another two years.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

Hays County is conducting its first census of the county’s homeless community Thursday. The so-called point-in-time count is a tally of people experiencing homelessness – both sheltered and unsheltered – at a single time.

Gov. Greg Abbott
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott directed state troopers to increase patrols within two blocks of state buildings in Central Austin after two stabbings involving homeless Austinites since Friday.

A homeless encampment in downtown Austin.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Homelessness was a controversial issue in Austin in 2019 – here's a timeline of all the developments – and it's not going away any time soon. With that in mind, here's a look at some issues and initiatives to keep an eye on this year.

Gov. Greg Abbott, seen here at a press conference last year, says there will be an exponential increase in the number of people who test positive for COVID-19.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Twice last year, Gov. Greg Abbott drew ire from Austin city officials when he suggested that crimes were the result of the city's new approach to homelessness, in which it has relaxed ordinances prohibiting camping or otherwise posting up in public spaces.

Lead volunteer Rachael Pound speaks with a man experiencing homelessness, in a convenience store on South Congress Avenue.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Roughly 2,500 homeless people sleep in shelters or outdoors in Austin on a given night. That estimate comes from the "point-in-time" count, an annual citywide census of the homeless community. Cities and counties must do the count on a single night to get federal money to help combat homelessness and house people living on the streets.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a ruling that found a ban against camping in public in Boise, Idaho, is unconstitutional. 

A woman lived in her car in front of our apartment building for a couple of weeks. Our family brought down some food, clothing and a blanket, but the woman hesitated to open her door when we knocked and smiled.

After all, who were we? Why should she trust us?

We did not call police or a city agency to say, "There's a woman living in a car on our street." I've reported stories where I've spent the night in city homeless shelters. They can feel crowded and unsafe, and have little privacy. I can see why someone would choose to stay on the street or in their car.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin City Council delayed a $7.8-million plan to buy and renovate a Montopolis-area hotel and retrofit it to house Austinites transitioning out of homelessness. Council members are expected to take up the proposal at a meeting in January.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin City Council will vote Monday on whether to spend $7.8 million to buy and renovate a hotel off Riverside Drive in East Austin to house homelessness Austinites. The property could house at least 71 people.

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