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Austin woman struggles to pay for motel she lives in because SXSW drove prices up

Crystal Brimm has been living in a motel for the past two months, but with SXSW in town, daily rates have shot up and made it harder for her to pay for the room.

AUSTIN, Texas — With South by Southwest (SXSW) coming to an end, many are sad to see the festival go. This festival brought thousands of people to Central Texas, giving a much-needed boost to the economy. While many small business owners, hotels, and restaurants benefited, Austinites like Crystal Brimm, not so much. 

For years, Brimm lived without a roof over her head. 

"I lost my apartment and was staying out of my car," she said. "So, when I lost my car, that messed up a whole lot of things, and I ended up in a tent under the freeway bridge."

It was a tough couple of years. After staying in a friend's apartment, about two months ago, she was able to move into a motel. When Brimm first moved in, she was paying about $60 a night for a room. When SXSW began last week, her rate went up to about $100 a night.

Brimm said it's been hard to come up with the money.

"There's usually a lot more stuff thrown everywhere," said Brimm, referring to all the things in her room. "But, I already started packing stuff up just in case I had to leave."

While Brimm isn't staying near where the festival is taking place, Paul Vaughn, who's a senior vice president at Source Strategies, said rates go up all around the city for events like this one.

"The hotels fill up, so you'll find people calling around looking for rooms that will push people further out from the city center," said Vaughn. "They'll be hitting the hotels in the suburbs in the outlying communities because all of the prime hotels have been occupied."

If someone is stuck in a position like Brimm's, Salvation Army Communications Manager Jason Whaley said they try their best to help the homeless through emergency shelters.

"We have three of those," said Whaley. "One is downtown, and that's for single men and women. And then we have two family shelters in East Austin."

Austin Public Health lists the following as other emergency shelter providers:

Brimm hopes she can get by this sudden price surge.

"When you're having to worry about day by day," said Brimm. "Whether or not you're going to have to go back to the streets or go back to a tent. And I refuse to go back to that. I really do."

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