AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin recently released a five-page memo detailing the work it's doing to take care of the city's homeless population during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
That work includes installing portable bathrooms and hand-washing stations at at least 20 locations throughout Austin. The stations, including one near Research Boulevard and Oak Knoll Drive, are equipped with soap and water to help nearby campers keep their hands clean.
The City is also temporarily pausing all encampment cleanups, meaning crews won't be removing any tents, mattresses or other things until they can figure out how to protect themselves and stay safe. But the City wants to figure that out as quickly as possible because cleaning up those camps improves the health and safety of people living nearby.
The pandemic has also made it more difficult for homeless individuals to find food. KVUE spoke with Selena Xie, the president of the Austin EMS Association, who said some of her medics told her they have come into contact with some homeless individuals who said they haven't had a meal in days.
The City is working with local nonprofits and restaurants to hand out at least 5,000 meals a week.
"EMS, although we're also hurting ourselves, also wanted to give to the most vulnerable in the community and so have been providing through other donors 300 meals a day downtown," Xie said. "I'm just really proud of our medics, and I'm proud of the community for all the support they've given us and allowed us to give to other people that are very vulnerable."
The City could start using hotels to house people who are homeless if they get COVID-19. The City finalized a lease with the Crown Plaza near Interstate 35 and U.S. 290, which has 292 rooms where homeless people could stay if they need to be quarantined. The City is also working with the Rodeway Inn off of I-35, south of Oltorf Street, which has 87 rooms and is set to close to the public on April 17.
The City is also still considering leasing or buying other hotels to give homeless individuals a place to quarantine during this pandemic.
You can read the full memo below:
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:
- Austin auto audio shop repurposes equipment to make face shields for doctors
- Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Hays County confirms 18 active positive cases; Bastrop County issues stay-at-home order
- 'Take hope in those empty spaces.' Woman with presumptive coronavirus gives thanks to Texans
- LIST: Confirmed Central Texas coronavirus cases by county
- Tom Herman shares his thoughts on college football potentially being canceled in 2020
- What are home improvement stores doing to implement social distancing?
- Central Texas school districts plan laptop distribution for digital learning