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'Like a best friend coming out' | Service providers head to Austin homeless camps to educate about Prop B changes

Integral Care's PATH team is continuing outreach, along with educating people about the changes that will come with the camping ban back in place.

AUSTIN, Texas — With the passage of Proposition B in May, reinstating the camping ban in Austin, things will change for the city's homeless community. 

During Phase 3 of implementation, most people experiencing homelessness will have to move from their current campsites.

"I panicked," said Diana Arnold. "I really did panic because I don't know where to go. Don't know how we're going to get there."

Arnold said she's lived under an overpass in Central Austin since January. However, later this summer, if she is still there, she will have to move.  

Before that happens, outreach teams are going into camps to give people information and connect them with resources. 

"A lot of people feel as if they're just being pushed away," said Jose Gonzalez, with Integral Care. "And honestly, it kind of does feel like that. It makes it harder and it creates more barriers for clients to connect to these resources that we're trying to help them get them to."

Gonzalez is part of Integral Care's PATH Team, which works to connect people experiencing homelessness to physical and mental health services. 

"We try to connect people to case management and counseling, shelter, housing, a PCP, a doctor," said Gonzalez. "I also try to provide food, clothing, shoes and other resources that they might be needing help with – help obtaining IDs and connecting to benefits."  

While outreach isn't anything new for the PATH team, Gonzalez said it is now also educating people about the changes Prop B will bring and offering any emotional support to the community.

"We're just doing the best that we can to provide that care that people are needing," said Gonzalez.  

Arnold said she understands why people are frustrated with the homeless community. 

"Yes, I do, but we can only do so much. We're human, too. We really are," said Arnold. "I mean, some of us, if we didn't have to be here, we wouldn't. Some of us have no choice. I don't have no choice."

She said the outreach she gets from Integral Care helps make the process of adjusting to the ban easier. 

"It does help. It helps a lot. It's like a best friend coming out, chit-chatting with you and giving you a pat on the back," she said.

Phase 1 of the City's approach to integrating the camping ban focusses on outreach. According to the plan, campsites would not be moved until Phase 3, which is 60 days after the start of Phase 1. 


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