Item #70 on 5/6 Agenda - designated camping areas

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Kathie Tovo
Posts: 111
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:18 am

Item #70 on 5/6 Agenda - designated camping areas

Post by Kathie Tovo »


As you’ve probably seen, today’s second addendum has an IFC I’m sponsoring with Council Members Alter, Kitchen, and Renteria and Mayor Adler for the May 6, 2021, Council meeting.

As the former Chair of the ECHO Membership Council and a longtime advocate on this dais for ending homelessness in our community, I want to provide additional background for this action, which I think could ultimately be an effective strategy to provide safer spaces for our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

As some of you may recall, in the summer of 2019 we directed the City Manager to identify areas throughout the city for safer camping for our constituents experiencing homelessness. The City Manager at the time declined this course of action. But our reality -- and our resources -- have changed since the summer of 2019. This resolution re-initiates the idea of the City creating temporary designated campsites with services such as security, lighting, restrooms, and storage. It also directs the City Manager to conduct research on national best practices, identify appropriate properties available to the City, and estimate implementation costs.

We have a lot to learn about whether this will be a good strategy for Austin and, if so, how we can do it well. A few years ago, I sponsored the resolution to work with the National Alliance to End Homelessness to revise the ARCH contract and ensure that our emergency shelters were low-barrier and trauma-informed. During NAEH’s workshop in Austin, conversations about designated camping arose among the present social service providers. NAEH urged us to consult experts to incorporate learnings from other cities before implementing designated campsites or similar efforts. My co-sponsors and I have posted this item to the agenda because I believe we must initiate this work quickly -- we can’t afford to delay what could be an important component of our homelessness response system.

Temporary, designated camping spaces are one way we can help mitigate the persistent safety risks for our unsheltered neighbors. This solution is not perfect -- the ideal solution is more low-barrier and permanent supportive housing. Until that can be achieved -- an effort I will continue to promote at every opportunity -- I believe we must examine the viability of offering safer places to live temporarily until permanent housing is available.

I look forward to the discussion in this forum and on the dais on Thursday.
Council District 9
Ann Kitchen
Posts: 236
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2015 4:04 pm

Re: Item #70 on 5/6 Agenda - designated camping areas

Post by Ann Kitchen »

CM Tovo:

Thank you for bringing forward this resolution, CM Tovo and including me as a co-sponsor. It is time that we have this conversation again and determine options for temporary, safer camping locations, while we work to connect people to housing and services. These locations must be carefully considered and aligned with public space needs.

With that said, I want to emphasize temporary. As you point out CM Tovo, we must remain focused on and accelerate our work connecting people with housing and services.

The HEAL Initiative I brought and Council passed in February, is one part of the city's approach to homelessness - one that we need to move as quickly as possible to implement and take to scale to house more people. Thank you for co-sponsoring with me and CMs Pool, Alter, Renteria, and Kelly.

HEAL is designed for people to be safe and secure in permanent housing. Each person is engaged in working towards the resolution that is best suited to his or her needs and desires. The result is a permanent, person-center solution with the highest possibility of success. HEAL connects people living in encampments to housing, social services, health care, jobs, and other services, beginning with four, particularly unsafe areas.

I also support the Community Summit's goal of adding 3000 homes by 2024 through a collaboration with local governments, businesses, and philanthropy. The Summit sets goals for rehousing encampments equitably and significantly reducing Austin's unsheltered population. That includes revamping our homeless response system with a rehousing intervention that works quickly to both prevent and rehouse people who may lose their homes.

Thank you for your longstanding and continued advocacy for our unhoused neighbors and your leadership in moving our community towards ending homelessness.

Ann Kitchen
City Council D5
Ann Kitchen
Council Member District 5
Mackenzie Kelly
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:56 pm

Re: Item #70 on 5/6 Agenda - designated camping areas

Post by Mackenzie Kelly »

Council Member Tovo,

I want to thank you for your leadership and thoughtfulness on item #70. I appreciate the work and research that has been put into this IFC and its addendum. The background information that you provided in this message board post provides insight that was not previously known to me about why this strategy was not utilized in the past. I agree with your assertation that this solution is not perfect and our reality and resources have evolved since the summer of 2019. I have spoken at length with the Governor’s Homeless Strategy Officer and I believe they could also provide insight about how Camp Esperanza is working and how we might be able to learn from their experiences. I would like to be added as a co-sponsor to this item. I look forward to the discussion tomorrow as well.

Warm Regards,

Council Member, District 6
Ashley Richardson
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:34 pm

Re: Item #70 on 5/6 Agenda - designated camping areas

Post by Ashley Richardson »

On behalf of Council Member Tovo -


A revised version of Item #70 from my office will soon be circulated. I’ve included two edits that further punctuate our original intent with this resolution: that these temporary designated campsites be geographically dispersed throughout the City with options for Council and community consideration in each Council district (similar to the language I had recommended for inclusion in Item #184 in 2019) and that the City Manager explore a broad range of funding options prior to considering affordable housing funds. ... 151356.pdf


Senior Policy Advisor
Office of Kathie Tovo, Council Member District 9
Leslie Pool
Posts: 193
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:22 pm

Re: Item #70 on 5/6 Agenda - designated camping areas

Post by Leslie Pool »

CM Tovo, count me in to help lift these strategies toward implementation. I support your item, and - in concert with CM Kitchen’s important work with HEAL - believe we are making good on our promise to do all we can to connect people to housing and needed services.

Thanks for your constancy in this difficult public policy area.


Leslie Pool
Council Member, District 7
Louisa Brinsmade
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2015 4:27 pm

Re: Item #70 on 5/6 Agenda - designated camping areas

Post by Louisa Brinsmade »

On behalf of CM Pool:

CM Tovo & colleagues:
I would offer one amendment to the second to last "Be It Resolved" on Line 129 to include an exploration of funding sources and provision of social services from regional governmental entities.

So, that sentence would read as follows: "No later than June 1, 2021, the City Manager shall present Council with a proposed schedule, estimated costs, financial resources, and possible community partners and regional governmental entities who could share expenses and potentially provide social services necessary to implement at multiple temporary designated campgrounds around the city."

As we've noted many times in the past, the City of Austin cannot solve this challenge alone; this is an "all hands on deck" community and governmental challenge. Let's make sure we are engaging all the governmental entities as well as community partners who are invested in solutions.

Here is the link to the motion sheet, and I've emailed it to the Agenda Office to distribute today: ... 095756.pdf

Looking forward to our discussions.

Policy Advisor
Office of Leslie Pool, Council Member District 7
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