AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin continues to look for solutions to help people experiencing homelessness. But not everyone is a fan of some of the choices the City has made.
Last week, safety concerns were raised about the Candlewood Suites hotel after people broke into the building and damaged it. In an update on Monday night, City of Austin officials said a contractor was cleaning up the facility and security is on-site.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler joined KVUE Daybreak on Monday to discuss the future of the hotel and other major topics on Austinites' minds.
Below is an abridged transcript of KVUE's interview with Adler:
KVUE's Rob Evans: Let's talk about last week. The leaders in Williamson County brought up some concerns about the safety regarding the Candlewood Suites [hotel]. What is the latest development on that hotel designed to ... [become a] shelter for those who do not have a home?
Austin Mayor Steve Adler: "Well, you know, the City holds a vacant building in Williamson County, and it got broken into and that's unfortunate. The City is going to go ahead and increase on-site security. Hopefully, it'll be up and operating in about six months as a supportive housing apartment building. It'll be like an apartment building.
You know, there are homeless encampments in Williamson County and that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. They're all over the region. This is not an Austin or Travis County challenge, it's one that we have to face regionally [and] all work together. And we're trying to find more and more places for people to be because we don't want anybody in tents or encampments. We hope to work with Williamson County, hope that they provide some shelters and places for people to be, too."
Evans: So, again, you said you believe this hotel, this Candlewood Suites, will be turned into housing within just a few months? Is that correct?
Adler: "Yeah, I think it's six months is the anticipated date."
Evans: We talk about, obviously, affordability in the city all the time, every time we talk. But it's the big issue, right? Council recently passed the basic income pilot program for $1,000 a month for 85 low-income families. Now, it's a pilot program. So, if this pilot is successful, what do you see in the future of this program?
Adler: "All depends on how much money it saves, if it's successful. What we know, again, is we don't want people in tents and out on our streets. We know it's expensive to take someone out of a tent and get them into a home. So, what's being tested is what if we intervene earlier? What if we're able to divert people just before they end up on our streets, keep them in their house? Will that be a less expensive option for taxpayers, as well as be a better option for the individuals?
If it proves to work that way — and programs like this are being tested in, I think, over 50 cities around the country and the early results seem to be encouraging — we're going to try that here. See if we can get better results and do better by our taxpayers."
Evans: Something the unsheltered [are] obviously dealing with right now is the incredible heat, some near record-setting heat ... Talking about something like the pools — we all want to get out there and enjoy the waterways. But because of the lifeguard shortage going on right now, do you have any idea how this is affecting the City pools or the area pools, things like that, as far as not opening at full capacity?
Adler: "Well, what we know is there are a lot of businesses around the city that are having trouble finding workers — a lot of folks, the service industry, restaurants, are dealing with that issue and, certainly, we're dealing with it with lifeguards. I don't know that there's been a determination yet of what the ultimate impact will be because we're focused on trying to hire lifeguards. So, we've added increased pay and we've added a bonus program for kids.
So, if you know any kids over 16 [who] know how to swim, are interested in having a summer job, going through a little training program, this is a great opportunity. It's a great summer job. And with the bonuses, [it's] paying better than it's ever paid before. We need folks that are interested."
Evans: Speaking of the heat, are there any plans for cooling shelters this week? ... Hunter said possible triple digits coming up very soon.
Adler: "I don't know the answer to that. I do know that we have protocols in place and when temperatures reach a certain level, we do that just as a matter of course."
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