Homelessness

KUTX Explores the topic of homelessness.

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.

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.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin City Council members say they're concerned about the timeline, placement and funding strategy for a plan to expand efforts to buy and retrofit hotels to house homeless Austinites.

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

ECHO, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, says the addition of 200-300 short-term motel units would substantially impact the community of Austinites living without shelter. In a memo sent Tuesday to the mayor and City Council, city staff said they agree.

The Rodeway Inn
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin City Council unanimously passed an $8-million plan to buy and repurpose the Rodeway Inn in South Austin to house people transitioning out of homelessness.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin is no longer pursuing a 100-bed shelter in South Austin and could opt instead to provide housing in motels for homeless Austinites.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott's office said the state will use 5 acres of state land at U.S. Highway 183 and Montopolis Drive as a temporary campsite for homeless Austinites. The site would serve as a stopgap until a privately backed effort brings a temporary shelter online in the downtown area.

ATX Helps says it wants to provide at least one temporary shelter from Sprung Instant Structures to hold 150 bunk beds and comfortably sleep 300 people.
Sprung Instant Structures

A group of Austin businesses, nonprofits and faith-based organizations is trying to raise $14 million to build and operate a temporary shelter for Austinites experiencing homelessness.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A day after clearing encampments outside the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, Austin police on Tuesday arrested a man for allegedly violating the city's new camping ban near the downtown shelter.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Crystal Harris cares about two things – a blanket and a teddy bear that belonged to her mother, who died two years ago. This morning, the 24-year-old homeless Austinite was prepared to fight for both of them.

Temporary shelters and materials gathered under an overpass at Ben White Boulevard and Victory Drive could be cleared out by the Texas Department of Transportation Monday, according to the governor's office.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott's office says it's forging ahead with cleanups of homeless encampments under overpasses in Austin.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Every Walls is a company man.

The 73-year-old veteran served in the Army in Vietnam. He follows rules, and he follows chain of command. He also shares a camp across the street from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) with a friend.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott's office says the Austin City Council has taken a "meaningful step" to address homelessness after its vote to partially reinstate a camping ban last night, but said he's going to ask the Texas Department of Transportation to clean up camps under bridges.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The Austin City Council reinstated partial bans on camping, sitting and lying down in public on Thursday. After hours of debate, Council approved the new ordinance on a 7-4 vote.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The Austin City Council is set to vote today on an ordinance that could reinstate bans on camping and resting in public. The vote comes after months of scrutiny and outright divisiveness after Council voted to rollback its previous ordinances in June.

A homeless encampment outside the Salvation Army downtown on Sept. 26.
Julia Reihs / KUT

The Austin City Council discussed reinstating bans on camping and resting in public Tuesday ahead of a vote at its Thursday meeting. The deliberation comes as the city faces the threat of state intervention from Gov. Greg Abbott and withering criticism on social media from opponents of rules it adopted this summer, rolling back restrictions on camping, sitting and lying down in public. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott doubled down on his threat to intervene over Austin's homelessness ordinances. 

Lori Pampilo Harris, the city's chief officer in charge of reducing homelessness
Julia Reihs / KUT

A month after her first official day on the job, Austin's homeless strategy officer, Lori Pampilo Harris, is quitting.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Homelessness in Austin isn't new.

But the Austin City Council's June vote to roll back ordinances criminalizing the behavior of homeless people has brought new focus on the issue. The Council has since updated its rules to reinstate bans on camping and resting in public.

How to deal with homelessness has been as divisive as it is crucial to the future of Austin. So, we've collected a handful of opinions espoused over the last few months.

Assistant Austin Police Chief Justin Newsom speaks with Tanya Bullman and James McPherson
Julia Reihs / KUT

Threats of state intervention, confusion on the part of officers and indecision on the dais at City Hall have all led the Austin Police Department to rethink how it enforces laws regulating where people can sit, lie down and camp in public. 

A man sits in a homeless encampment outside the Salvation Army downtown.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said police are going to retool how they enforce laws that prohibit obstruction of sidewalks and public spaces and that he has asked the city to revert back to old rules on homelessness while it considers revising ordinances passed in June.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott says he's prepared to "unleash the full authority of every state agency" if Austin doesn't address issues surrounding homelessness by Nov. 1. 

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Starting today, Austin’s homeless shelter is officially a housing-focused shelter, shifting its resources to longer-term efforts and less on day-to-day emergency shelter operations.

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