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Officials, organizers break ground on transitional shelter complex at State homeless campsite in Austin

The Other Ones Foundation will develop the site into a transitional shelter complex, comprised of 200 individual non-congregate shelter units.

AUSTIN, Texas — Officials and community organizers held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday morning for a new transitional shelter complex at Esperanza Community, the State-sanctioned homeless campsite in southeast Austin. 

Local nonprofit The Other Ones Foundation  (TOOF) will develop the site into a transitional shelter complex, comprised of 200 individual non-congregate shelter units. Offerings on site will include showers, bathrooms, food prep areas, laundry facilities, food access, mental and physical health resources, work opportunities, case management and housing navigation and more.

"I think what it was really designed to do is offer people some sense of dignity and a sense of traction," said Chris Baker, founder and executive director of TOOF. "Living in a tent, it's very difficult to keep your things safe and secure, to keep yourself safe and secure. And without that basic sense of security, it's hard to find any dignity, and it's very difficult to find the traction that people need to find to start make that journey out of homelessness."

TOOF said the shelter complex will cost $5.4 million to build and run through the first year. It still needs to raise $1.6 million. 

The money raised so far, according to TOOF, comes from private philanthropy, county and state funding. 

TOOF is a nonprofit that offers low-barrier case management, humanitarian aid and work opportunities to people experiencing homelessness in Austin. TOOF has run operations at Esperanza Community since August 2020.

Representatives for TOOF and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) were on-site for the groundbreaking ceremony.

Some of the residents of the camp also joined for the groundbreaking. 

"The tiny homes allow people enough human dignity to get the traction they need to make the real changes in their lives," said one long-time resident, who goes by Hippie. 

Hippie said he's currently staying off-site while construction begins.

"I don’t believe we can ever fix homelessness, but I do believe we can answer it," said Hippie. "And this is the answer."

Esperanza Community, also known as Camp Esperanza, is located at 780 U.S. 183 in southeast Austin, near Ben White Boulevard. The site was designated by the State of Texas in 2019 as a campground for people experiencing homelessness.

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