AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday tweeted the State of Texas is offering up its five acres of shelter space for $1 per month.
ATX Helps, an organization driven by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, is expected to take over that lease to build the city's first Sprung shelter.
This could become true as soon as next week when the proposal comes before the Texas Transportation Commission on Feb. 27.
Mike Rollins, president and CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, released the following statement on Thursday:
"We are excited about this important step forward in the process of providing temporary, immediate shelter to people experiencing homelessness. Since our launch in November, we've reviewed a number of sites around Austin, including many locations near downtown. While those locations were not viable for our first Sprung shelter, the TxDOT site near 183 and Montopolis has already proven itself as a workable, accessible location for people currently living on the streets.
"If we move forward with a lease agreement for this site, we will be able to provide a navigation center that includes important wraparound services to 150 people who are experiencing homelessness. We are eager to get this first shelter open so we can use the earnings we’ll get from it to open additional shelters as we raise more funds.
"ATX Helps was created to fill gaps in the spectrum of services available to people in Austin who are experiencing homelessness. As we've said from the beginning, this shelter will be part of the solution along with other efforts. It's imperative that we work together to support fellow Austinites who are most vulnerable."
Bill Brice of the Downtown Austin Alliance said this is a big step forward for the coalition.
"ATX Helps could actually lease the site for a very nominal rate per year and then be able to utilize that site to put up the temporary shelter, but also to have different facilities around it," said Brice, "restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, storage for personal belongings and other things that will be needed for people to be able to be there, have all their belongings and accommodate for pets, hopefully, and other needs that they have."
Brice said if the lease agreement happens, they'd like to bring more transportation to the camp to give people options to go to and from the site.
The campsite land is currently owned by TxDOT. It sits on U.S. 183 about a mile south of Montopolis Drive.
ATX Helps has been working to establish a shelter, storage facility and family reunification shelter in Austin. Called a Sprung shelter, it will be fully heated and can hold around 150 bunk beds. It is expected to open later this year.
Currently, Brice said ATX Helps has $1.5 million pledged. He said it has a short-term goal of $5.5 million to get things started. He hopes to see the shelter open in June or July of this year.
KVUE visited the state homeless camp on Thursday to see how some of the people who live there felt about the proposal.
"If you try and cram everybody into one location, it's going to be complete chaos," said a resident who goes by the name Mouse. "We all live accordingly the way we want to live, but if we want to interact with people we still can."
Robert Rhodes said he's glad to hear about it, but hopes the format is a little different.
“I’m kind of glad to hear that they’re doing something even if they come out here. I mean, we got all kinds of room in the back for them," said Rhodes.
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