On November 14, the Austin City Council voted to approve $8 million in funding to purchase and renovate an old Rodeway Inn off I-35 near Oltorf Street. The decision comes two days after ditching the original plan to build a new shelter in South Austin.
Abandoning the shelter will reportedly cost the city $80,000 which it already spent on initial costs for inspections and the like. The city said it will save money in the long run by shifting to the new plan.
Mayor Steve Adler said on the dais during the topic’s debate, “If we’re going to fundamentally change the situation of homelessness in our community, it’s going to require us to find and place housing in our city. So, it’s something that we have to do.”
Operating costs will be paid by the Ending Community Homeless Coalition (ECHO) [sic], a nonprofit organization.
Just as many people voiced their opposition to the original plan, some business owners have voiced their concerns with the Rodeway Inn location.
The need for shelter space seems to be ever-increasing as most of the existing shelters are full on a nightly basis. Last week, a plan for a short-term type of shelter was announced by the Austin Chamber of Commerce. The goal is to raise $14 million and, as of now, it will be entirely privately funded.
Two weeks ago, the Texas Department of Transportation began cleaning out the homeless encampments under highway overpasses at the direction of Governor Greg Abbott — further stressing the need for shelter space.
July’s ordinance change caused tensions to spike among city residents and their elected officials — resulting in numerous highly attended and contentious town halls. Many residents, including business owners, expressed serious concerns about the city’s handling of the problem and its effects on their lives.
Austin’s homelessness predicament has been deteriorating for years now. But as cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles appear to foreshadow Austin’s future, the rush to prevent further deterioration — both in the state of the city and the lives of its residents, homeless or otherwise — seemingly grows more prominent with each passing week.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.