East Cesar Chavez encampment residents move into former South Austin hotel

The former hotel off I-35 had most recently been used as a COVID-19 homeless Protection Lodge. (Courtesy City of Austin)
The former hotel off I-35 had most recently been used as a COVID-19 homeless Protection Lodge. (Courtesy City of Austin)

The former hotel off I-35 had most recently been used as a COVID-19 homeless Protection Lodge. (Courtesy City of Austin)

The first homeless encampment clearing through Austin's Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link, or HEAL, program is underway, and around 20 people experiencing homelessness have been relocated to a former South Austin hotel for shelter, the city announced June 17.

The first phase of the HEAL initiative, authorized by City Council in early February, will see city staff work to remove four "high-priority" homeless encampments throughout the city and connect their residents with temporary shelter and housing resources. Following months of planning and outreach, the clearing process began this week as residents of an encampment near the Terrazas Branch Library on East Cesar Chavez Street moved to the city's Southbridge shelter, a former Rodeway Inn at 2711 I-35 that most recently served as a COVID-19 Protection Lodge. The facility will now operate as a designated HEAL shelter with room for dozens of homeless individuals, where they will be connected with rapid rehousing case workers.

“We’ve made an important step this week toward demonstrating how concrete connection to housing can reduce the challenge of unsheltered homelessness and unauthorized encampments in Austin,” Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said in a statement. “Southbridge will allow 75 people to get off the streets immediately—but the longer-term housing resources provided to guests are what will truly reduce homelessness in Austin. We are pleased to offer the shelter, support and rapid rehousing that people need to begin their journey back to stability and permanent housing.”

As residents of the East Cesar Chavez encampment move out, the city is working to shut down the camp next to the public library. Work crews will continue to clean the area this week, and fencing will be installed to officially close down the site, the city said.

Prior to this week, the city had not pinpointed specific campsites being targeted through its HEAL initiative. Council's February resolution authorizing the program identified the four priority locations only as: a South Central Austin camp located under a highway overpass at a "major intersection," a Central Business District camp running along a "major arterial," a Northwest Austin camp at an intersection "adjacent to significant vehicular and pedestrian traffic," and an East Austin camp on a sidewalk near a public library.


The announcement of the HEAL initiative's progress comes days after Austin entered its second phase of enforcing Proposition B's camping ban. After a one-month phase geared toward education and outreach, phase two is centered on the delivery of written warnings and citations to individuals experiencing homelessness who are camping in public in violation of the law instated following the May 1 election. Austin police also began the week by clearing away and arresting some campers around City Hall, although officials have since said that clearance was tied to an impending construction project and trespassing issues tied to the "protest" tents on that property rather than Proposition B implementation.

The remainder of the HEAL initiative's first phase is expected to run through August, with continuing outreach at the three remaining priority camps to be followed by relocations to shelter and restoration of the public campsites.
By Ben Thompson

Austin City Hall Reporter

Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. After spending more than two years covering in The Woodlands area, he moved to Austin in 2021 to cover City Hall and other news throughout the city.



MOST RECENT

The new 35-story building overlooks Lady Bird Lake and Shoal Creek. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Workers celebrate topping out of Austin 'sailboat building' concrete structure

Workers who contribute to the construction of the Block 185 building celebrated topping off the structure, a big milestone for the development project that began in 2019.

A system to identify at-risk Austin Police Department employees has not been effective. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Audit finds Austin police system to flag at-risk officers is failing

Austin's city auditor and police chief agree the police department's computer program to identify at-risk officers is not fulfilling its mission.

A rise in COVID-19 cases has Travis County back in stage 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Austin reverts to Stage 4 guidelines with rising delta variant cases

As delta variant COVID -19 cases are sending more young people to local ICUs, The Austin-Travis County Health Authority has moved the area back to guidelines that require masks indoors.

Opening day at Q2 Stadium
US men’s soccer team to visit Q2 Stadium this fall

The U.S. men's national team will host Jamaica for a FIFA World Cup qualifier game on Oct. 7.

Capital Metro is hosting a series of virtual meetings to hear feedback from the community on the latest Project Connect designs. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Capital Metro seeks community input on latest Project Connect design

Want to have your voice heard about Project Connect? Tune in to the upcoming virtual meetings.

Leander Marketplace PUD would be located at the northeast corner of Hero Way and US 183. (Screenshot courtesy city of Leander)
Leander eyes development with restaurants, retail; Bin Drop opens in New Braunfels and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Dozens of Austin residents spoke virtually and in person July 22 to share their thoughts on the city's proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police funding again takes center stage in public hearing on Austin's proposed FY 2021-22 budget

Dozens of city residents calling into or appearing at City Hall on July 22 shared their thoughts about policing and the city's spending plan.

Mortgage purchase applications are down year over year, but the Austin housing market remains hot. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin housing market still hot but showing signs of slowing down

Experts say that a decrease in mortgage purchase applications points to “a reversion back to norm” in the Austin housing market.

Peter Lake (left), chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Brad Jones, interim president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, provided an update on state regulators' electric grid redesign efforts in Austin on July 22. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Regulators: Texas electric grid prepared for potentially record-breaking demand next week; 'once-in-a-generation reforms' underway

The heads of the agencies in charge of the Texas electric grid met in Austin on July 22 to provide updates on their grid reform efforts.

Z'Tejas margarita
Where to celebrate National Tequila Day this year around Austin

From mezcal bars to frozen margarita specials, here is a list of places to celebrate National Tequila Day on July 24.