Homeless camp overwhelms south Austin greenbelt

South Austin homeless camp (KXAN Viewer Photo)
South Austin homeless camp (KXAN Viewer Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — South Austin neighbors reached out to us to make their concerns known, sending in video of hazards right behind their homes, calling it a problem the city needs to pay more attention to. A homeless camp that has only grown with time.

The area: the Williamson Creek Greenbelt, between Stassney Lane and William Cannon.

“We can hear voices all the time from that camp,” Richard Sigmon said. Sigmon and his neighbor followed the voices to get an idea what was going on behind their homes and what they found left them speechless. “In the past it used to be maybe one to two tents way down in the woods.” Now, what initially appears to be a dump site, neighbors say is far darker, an area woven with worries of environmental and safety hazards and crime. Just a short walk across Williamson Creek into the

Just a short walk across Williamson Creek into the greenbelt and you’re transported to a world in the woods. One that feels more foreign with each step.

“It’s scary to have this right in your backyard,” Pearcy said, pointing to a machete that was wedged in a couch. “There’s a moped down here that’s most likely stolen, I’ve seen needles on the ground — it’s a tragedy that this is happening in Austin.”

Sigmon added, “I know the city has priorities. But when you see this, this should be a priority.”

Austin’s Watershed Department says with a call into the city’s pollution hotline (512-974-2550) it can go out to investigate the site and loop in Austin Code and police as needed. Pearcy says he’s reached out to “Keep Austin Beautiful” about clean-up efforts and to APD to make officers aware of the situation.

KXAN combed through data from Austin 311 that indicates where most people called to complain about homeless and transient people in 2016:

  • 78701: 119 (downtown)
  • 78702: 78  (east Austin)
  • 78745: 75 (south Austin)
  • 78704: 64 (south Austin)
  • 78741: 56 (southeast Austin)

APD tells us addressing homeless challenges puts an additional strain on limited police resources. It recognizes many need specialized services, which is why the city created a Homeless Outreach Street Team. APD described HOST as, “a proactive approach to addressing peoples’ needs before they reach a state of crisis. The goal is to provide assistance to eliminate behavior that often results in arrest, citation, or admission to a medical or psychiatric facility.”

Currently, the program is concentrated to downtown.

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