Pop-up homeless camps causing problems in South Austin


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE


Posted on January 18, 2013 at 7:09 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 18 at 7:21 PM

AUSTIN -- The Slaughter and Manchaca intersection in South Austin is surrounded by stores, restaurants, apartments, and now a homeless camp.

The camp popped up several weeks ago, but because it’s on private property Austin police say there is nothing they can do about it for the time being.

Senior Officer Joshua Visi told KVUE they are able to kick out pop-up camps underneath the Slaughter bridge because it is city property, however, the field where the camps have moved is privately-owned.

“My enforcement actions and the aggressive action I’m taking under the bridge where the city does own and patrol, it’s pushing them into this greenbelt area,” Visi said.

Now some of the people living in the camp have started jumping the fence into a private apartment complex located next to the field.

On December 14th, Austin police received a call about a young couple who approached a single mother at her apartment.

Cynthia Lomas also lives in the complex and spoke to KVUE about the incident.

“They knocked on her door and asked her if she could give them a ride to the store. It was very odd," Lomas told us.

Lomas believes the couple jumped the fence separating the field from the complex. She said she’s worried about the safety of her family and her four children.

“I’m just afraid somebody is going to cross the line,” said Lomas.

The next step for Austin police is to call the company who is selling the private property. Officer Visi said it’s a priority because the camps are littering the area and the trash is falling into the nearby creeks.

Police also worried about the fires at these camps, since the field is dry and susceptible to fires.

If the company who owns the property allows Austin police to enforce the “no trespassing” law, then officers can begin removing these camps.

When asked why more of these camps were popping up in the South Austin area, Officer Visi said the homeless are looking for more undeveloped properties as North and Central Austin continue to grow.