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Gov. Greg Abbott Says Texas Will Temporarily House Homeless Austin Residents On Five Acres Of State Land

The announcement for temporary camping space comes after Abbott’s office cleared homeless from state overpasses.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune
Tents set up near the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, or ARCH, in downtown Austin on Aug. 2, 2019.

After forcing Austin’s homeless population out from under state overpasses, Gov. Greg Abbott‘s office on Thursday announced a plan to provide a five-acre plot of land for homeless people to camp temporarily until more permanent shelter can be identified.

The temporary shelter will be located near Highway 183 and Montopolis, the governor’s office said, an area of land that spokesman John Wittman characterized in a text message to The Texas Tribune as “the closest to downtown the State has available.” The location will include “portable restrooms, hand washing stations, and comes with commitments from local charities to deliver food multiple times a day” and “will provide access to healthcare providers and homeless case workers to provide care for the homeless.”

Thursday’s news comes days after the Texas Department of Transportation, at Abbott’s direction, removed people experiencing homelessness and their personal property from encampments under state overpasses in Austin. It also marks the latest development in what’s become an intense political fight between Abbott and the city over its homeless residents.

Earlier this year, after the Austin City Council revised some ordinances regulating which public spaces people can camp, Abbott began criticizing local officials over it — and eventually gave the city a deadline to show “consequential improvement” on the issue or else the state would step in. That intervention started Monday, when TxDOT employees began removing property from under some Austin overpasses. The move prompted outcry from city leaders, including Austin City Council member Greg Casar, who called it a “political stunt.”

Wittman told the Tribune that the temporary shelter is located 4.9 miles away from the Texas Capitol in downtown Austin. The address provided also indicated that the shelter is in a clearing adjacent to the historically low-income Montopolis neighborhood, across the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

In his statement Thursday, Abbott also applauded the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Austin Alliance and other groups who have helped launch a non-profit group aimed at helping people in the area who are experiencing homelessness.

ATX Helps, the name of the non-profit, will focus on raising funds to “provide emergency shelter, outreach and storage for people living on Austin’s streets that want help,” according to an announcement posted online. The group has set a goal of raising $14 million “for construction and operation” of a shelter to provide “immediate housing and other necessities for Austinities experiencing homelessness.” That funding, according to the group, will pay for construction costs and two years of operations for the shelter, which “can comfortably sleep 300 men and women.”

This developing story will be updated.

This article was originally published on The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.