AUSTIN, Texas — The bone-chilling cold expected later this week means the City of Austin will once again activate its cold weather plan to shelter people experiencing homelessness. But council members say their constituents want to know, “Why are so many people still out in the cold?”
Last year's Prop B was simple enough. The May vote outlawed camping in public places. But Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey tells the council the city's response to the camps involves more than simply moving the occupants out. She says, “Since August 2021, which is when the camping ordinance went into effect, requests for services for encampments have far outstripped capacity of the city departments to respond.”
And she says the obvious destinations for the displaced campers continue to be limited. “Our congregate shelters, both Front Steps and Salvation Army do continue to operate at limited capacity given our risk stage for COVID and that has been true really almost the entire two years of the pandemic,” she added.
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But the council did receive some good news. More permanent supportive housing will soon go online. District 2 Council Member Vanessa Fuente recounted, “By the end of this year we’ll have two additional hotels operational up and running and that will provide over 138 permanent supportive housing units."
And while finding everyone a warm place to get out of the cold this week is a top priority for the City of Austin, the End Community Homelessness Coalition known as ECHO is working toward something bigger with their Week of Action events. Chris Davis, communications manager for ECHO states, “It takes housing and it takes wraparound services to provide people the supports that they need to remain stably housed. That's what ends homelessness plain and simple."