AUSTIN, Texas — More than a year after Gov. Greg Abbott funded a state-sanctioned homeless encampment off Highway 183, a nonprofit is bringing in additional support.
"Man we didn't have nothing. Water no. Food was you know, scarce," said Erica Soto, a resident at the camp of two years.
Since TOOF arrived in August, she said the circumstances changed drastically. The camp grew from 120 people to 150 people from August to October.
In addition to the portable toilets and sinks already available, TOOF brought in mobile hygiene clinics supplied with showers and hygiene products and a headquarters with a charging station. Organizers are in the process of building a kitchen for open use.
The nonprofit also provides case management to people living at the camp. This will help set them up for getting jobs and permanent housing.
Soto is a member of the community who gets paid by TOOF to clean the headquarters. She said the nonprofit is also helping her get an ID so she can receive her stimulus check, go to school and get a job.
"People are coming out here in these community meetings to try to create a solution-focused community," said Max Moscoe, TOOF's communication's director.
While the maintenance of the land is supported by the Texas Department of Transportation, TOOF relies on private donors to fund their programs and support services.
The state staffs one officer with the Department of Public Safety and a couple of emergency management workers at all times.
Moscoe said it was important for the TOOF to reimagine how services would work during a global pandemic, so the timing of the move was important.
"Homelessness service delivery has traditionally been in a congregate model, one place one time, to get all different services," he said.
Instead, the camp offers all services without requiring people to move from place to place, increasing the chances the virus would spread.
However, Moscoe said the community has not had cases of COVID-19 or anyone presenting symptoms.
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