AUSTIN, Texas — The property management group of a North Austin apartment complex is now looking at hiring a contractor to clean up a homeless camp adjacent to its property after finding out the City of Austin won't help.
Cecil Domel, an area supervisor with Belco Equities Inc., reached out to KVUE earlier this week after struggling to find a solution to the growing homeless camp bordering the Arrowhead Park Apartments off of North Lamar Boulevard and Masterson Pass.
KVUE aired a story on Domel's concerns about who is responsible for cleaning up the camp – and whether it was on private or city property – on Tuesday.
"We kept getting the runaround. One department would point the finger at the other department because no one really knew what to do," Domel said.
On Wednesday, after KVUE's Pattrik Perez contacted four City departments – Austin police, the Austin Code Department, Austin Resource Recovery and Watershed Protection – Domel finally received some clarity.
According to a spokesperson with Watershed Protection, the Arrowhead Park Apartment's property line extends beyond its fence and halfway into a drainage channel. The tents and trash are located within the channel and the surrounding area.
The other half of the drainage channel – and the grassy area behind it – belongs to another private property. For this reason, the spokesperson said it is the responsibility of both private property owners to clean "litter and trash from the area."
Despite the drainage channel belonging to the City, the City has limited rights to access it because the easement is privately owned, the spokesperson said. However, City crews are responsible for removing bulky items, like tree trunks, that might block the flow of water through the channel.
"It's a huge relief because that sense of not knowing has gone now. The information you provided is stuff we didn't know and, to be honest with you, I felt helpless on what we could do," Domel said. "Now we know that we can make a call and have the debris at least moved away from our fence line [and] try to create some sort of separation between the people that are there illegally and our residents who are just on the other side of the fence."
However, Domel expressed concerns about any potentially, privately-funded cleanup.
"My concern is for the safety of the contractors if they would go over there and have to move this stuff. We may have to get some information from APD on what kind of protection they can provide while our contractors are over there cleaning that stuff up," he said.
According to a spokesperson with the Code Department, private property owners can contact APD for assistance and officers can issue criminal trespass notices and can later arrest someone if they are found in violation of that notice.
"I can't thank you guys enough for stepping in to help us out with this because we just didn't know who to turn to," Domel said. "What we tried to accomplish was to raise awareness, and I feel like we've done that now."
Domel will receive a bit of help, but only because of the drainage easement. The site is on Watershed's list of areas for monthly cleanups. A spokesperson said the first cleanup should happen within the coming weeks.
Other private property owners who have homeless camps on their property would not typically receive this kind of help from the City.
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