AUSTIN, Texas — Austin city leaders confirmed a body was found on Tuesday at a homeless encampment where a scheduled cleanup was set to take place.
Police said the check-welfare call came in just after 8 a.m. from the 400 block of S. Pleasant Valley Road.
An Austin Police Department spokesperson said the Austin Fire Department and EMS officials responded to the area before the cleanup. At this time, all activities related to the cleanup were halted, and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Resource Recovery and the APD agreed the cleanup would be delayed until it was determined it was not an active crime scene.
The spokesperson said the homicide department was later contacted by officers on scene. The department opted not to respond after preliminary investigation suggested that the death was not suspicious.
Officials said the immediate area had been cordoned off with crime scene tape, which remained up and around the tent where the deceased person was located until the medical examiner's office transported the body. The person's belongings were collected.
“The Austin Police Department fully recognizes and appreciates the value of human life. Crime scene tape was put up to preserve the dignity and respect of the deceased and to preserve the integrity of a potential crime scene," the spokesperson said. “Weeks, if not months of planning, have taken place among several City departments for this cleanup to take place. Due to the significant amount of resources allocated to the area (numerous pieces of equipment and manpower), pending inclement weather, and as the cleanup in no way interfered with the investigation or the handling of the deceased or their property, the scheduled cleanup went ahead."
"Like many of you I was concerned to learn about an unhoused neighbor who was found deceased this morning at a campsite on Town Lake. While we are still learning all the facts, it is vital that all proper investigative steps were taken and the dignity of the decedent preserved," added Councilmember Pio Renteria.
A City of Austin spokesperson also released a statement on the matter:
“APD and City partners – including Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Austin Resource Recovery and Watershed Protection – are taking a responsible approach to enforcing the public camping ban and working with the people who are impacted. The City’s Homeless Outreach Street Team and Downtown Austin Community Court social workers are helping to make sure individuals experiencing homelessness can access support services. Meanwhile, under the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) Initiative, 182 people living in six of the most unsafe encampments have been relocated to rooms at City-owned bridge shelters and linked to long-term housing. Over a 12-month period, the City and its partners successfully moved more than 1,700 people into housing and out of homelessness.
“City leaders continue to caution that overall community crisis shelter capacity remains extremely limited. For as long as this is the case, as encampments are cleared in one location, the number of tents will inevitably grow in other areas. That’s why the increase in resources to address homelessness is so important. Last June, Austin City Council voted to dedicate $106.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds toward addressing homelessness. Travis County Commissioners Court voted in September to allocate $110 million in ARPA funds to build housing units for people experiencing homelessness in the Austin area. The City is also expanding capacity for crisis services, case management, behavioral health and rehousing programs.”
Police added that the investigation is still ongoing.
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