AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department has identified several locations for the city to consider as temporary overflow housing for the homeless.
Earlier this month, city council members asked city staff to find a city-owned building that could be turned into an emergency shelter when the ARCH is too full.
In a memo, PARD determined six facilities could potentially fit the bill. The locations are: Austin Recreation Center, Givens Recreation Center, Gus Garcia Recreation Center, Northwest Recreation Center, Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center and South Austin Recreation Center.
PARD used the same criteria that would be required to house coastal residents who evacuate to Austin during a major hurricane event. City staff also looked at factors such as proximity to mass transit options and how suitable the buildings’ structure would be for housing people.
PARD did note that none of the buildings it’s recommending meet all of the criteria for an emergency shelter, but the six identified would work for temporary homeless housing. The department said it can “effectively operate temporary sheltering in conjunction with programming, as long as it does not exceed 5 calendar days.”
Some who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the recreation centers that have been recommended say they’re uneasy with the idea.
“I’d probably look into moving,” said Marleny Granados, who lives in the Allandale neighborhood near the Northwest Recreation Center and utilizes its after-school program.
Often, city recreation centers are used for summer camps, after-school programs and community classes. PARD said in its memo if temporary sheltering is needed longer than five days, recreation center programs and activities could be subject to cancellation.
“Every time you go in there, there’s a lot of kids playing basketball, pool, they’ve got a weight room and everything,” said Michael Lemuel of Givens Recreation Center on the city’s east side.
Lemuel worries if the Givens Center is chosen as a temporary shelter, children who live nearby could be pushed out of one of the only safe places they have to play. He also worries it would increase the area’s already troubling crime rate.
“You go to the ARCH, it’s nothing but trouble,” Lemuel said. “So, if you bring that over here, and, you know, all the drugs, it’d just build up over here and it’d just make it worse.”
In addition to analyzing the recommendations, city staff is also looking into any other possible locations that may be suitable. The staff is expected to have a final report with five final temporary shelter recommendations by the end of the week. That list will then be presented to the city council. From there, city leaders will focus on narrowing down the list to one definite emergency shelter.
Just last week, the city launched a 30-day pilot program to curb the crowd of homeless people around the ARCH. Part of the program includes adding additional lighting as well as portable toilets.