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Nearly 50 individuals relocated from homeless campsite in South Austin to temporary housing

The City of Austin moved 48 people from a homeless campsite at the underpass on Ben White Boulevard and Menchaca Road this week through the HEAL initiative.

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin moved 48 people from a homeless campsite at the underpass on Ben White Boulevard and Menchaca Road this week, according to a press release.

The nearly 50 individuals experiencing homelessness are now temporarily staying at the Southbridge shelter. The City-owned Southbridge shelter has 75 bedrooms. 

This is the second encampment site cleared under the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link, or HEAL initiative. Twenty individuals were relocated from the first HEAL site at Terrazas Library in June. 

“This week shows what we can do as a community by working together to resolve unsafe encampments,” City of Austin Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said in the press release. “People experiencing homelessness are eager to move off the street when we’re able to offer dignified shelter and real resources to get into housing.”

The City is offering temporary shelter and a path to permanent housing by the end of the summer to individuals living at four homeless encampments across the city through the HEAL initiative. The four camping sites are in Southcentral, East, Downtown and Northwest Austin, according to the press release.

Once the individuals already staying at the shelter are transferred to permanent housing, their rooms will become available.

According to the release, City staff is continuing to work with the Austin City Council to convert City-owned properties to use for encampments. Earlier this month, only two of the City’s 78 possible locations for a sanctioned homeless camp were still in the running.

The council passed the HEAL initiative in February. 

In April, city leaders set a goal to house 3,000 people experiencing homelessness in the next three years at the Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness in Austin. The plan aimed to house 100 people by June 2021, and 200 by August.  

In an update on that first June milestone, a spokesperson for the summit said 79 people were moved into “stable housing” from April 1 to June 30, according to data from the Homeless Management Information System.

“These results represent those housed through permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing solutions only,” the spokesperson said. “The numbers are not reflective of people reached through diversion programs, temporary shelters, or designated encampments such as Esperanza Community. For example, around 70 people are now sheltered in the City’s Southbridge shelter and will eventually be placed into permanent housing.”

Phase 3 of the City’s homeless camping ban started Sunday, July 11.

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