Austin wants to put trash cans near homeless camps under highways, awaits state approval

A homeless camp underneath Hwy. 290
The state will begin clearing homeless encampments under Austin highways beginning Nov. 4. The city is working to get trash cans placed in a few select spots to help with trash collection.

The state will begin clearing homeless encampments under Austin highways beginning Nov. 4. The city is working to get trash cans placed in a few select spots to help with trash collection.

In an effort to reduce the litter resulting from homeless encampments under Austin’s highways, City Council voted to place trash cans in a few hot spots around the city. However, the final decision will have to come from the state.

The precise locations of the trash cans, should the state approve the program, are still to be determined. Although it is state land, the city back in March took over responsibility for cleaning up 61 designated areas under Austin’s highways. However, starting Nov. 4, the Texas Department of Transportation will resume the role following Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to use state resources to clear homeless encampments from the areas.

The placement of the trash cans aim to ease the process of cleaning under the highways. Prior to City Council expressing unanimous support for the project Oct. 31, Adler acknowledged the state’s plan to begin clearing camps Nov. 4 and said he hopes the state’s effort will be “constructive” in addressing the issues both of homelessness and of litter under city highways.

District 4 Council Member Greg Casar said he hoped the state would recognize the difference between litter and people.

“There is a big difference between litter and people,” District 4 Council Member Greg Casar said prior to council's vote. “Litter needs cleaning up. People need help.”


City documents say the location of the trash cans will be determined by data the city has collected through its Violet Trash Bag project pilot, a program that has brought violet trash bags to homeless encampments throughout the city to help those experiencing homelessness to keep their areas clean. Austin Resource Recovery would service the trash cans if the program were implemented; however, the frequency of trash pickups has yet to be determined.

A representative from Austin’s Public Works Department said that should the state approve the project, the city estimates trash cans will begin to be distributed between December and January.
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