Homeless Crisis in Austin

Homeless people rest on the sidewalk across the street from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless on November 5, 2019, a day after city crews removed most of the homeless people and their tents from a camp outside the homeless shelter.
James Prince, who has been homeless for two years, lays down on the sidewalk on East 8th Street under I-35 on October 29, 2019. Prince said he heard about Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to clear out the homeless camps under overpasses, and he may move back to his hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
A homeless person’s tent is set up on East 2nd Street near Brazos Street in downtown Austin on October 28, 2019.
First responders help a homeless woman who was having a medical emergency at Neches and East 6th streets a block away from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless on October 18, 2019.
Hot Water Slim walks in the homeless camp where he lives under U.S. 290 near West Gate Boulevard on July 3, 2019.
Sonia Aranda and her 12-year-old son, Justin Fortune, who are homeless, panhandle at Walmart on East Ben White Boulevard on May 9, 2019. Instead of sitting in a classroom like most kids his age, learning grammar and algebraic equations, Justin is begging for money with his mom and her boyfriend, Jonathan Rodriguez, in Southeast Austin. Aranda, 37, said the family moved to Austin in April, after her aunt kicked them out of her home in Dallas. “I thought there would be more help here,” Rodriguez said. “I guess I was wrong.” Neither Aranda nor Rodriguez, who works in construction, have been able to find jobs in Austin. Now, the family sleeps in abandoned houses.
Austin police investigate after a homeless man died in a tent under I-35 near Cesar Chavez Street on October 31, 2019. He was discovered the morning after the first freeze of the season. The death is not suspicious, and is under investigation.
Gregory Mack, 60, sits in a drainage tunnel under East Riverside Drive on May 9, 2019. At any given time, more than half a dozen people call the tunnel home. Mack said he lived in the tunnel for many years, but not anymore. A few months ago, his leg started to swell from an old gunshot wound, and he had to check into a hospital. Doctors put him in a skilled nursing facility, where he stays now. But, he still goes down to the tunnels almost every day to see his friends. “We have a bond,” he said. “It’s about togetherness.”
Amber Price, a community health paramedic with Austin-Travis County EMS, hugs Lynnee Watkins, who is homeless, after giving him his medications on East 6th Street on August 13, 2019. Price is a member of the HOST Team, a coalition of Austin-Travis County EMS, the Austin Police Department, Integral Care and Community Court who offer services to homeless people.
Sharon Petty, who has been homeless for a year, rests in her makeshift shelter in a homeless camp under U.S. 290 near Pack Saddle Pass on October 14, 2019.
Homeless people gather in a camp under U.S. 290 near West Gate Boulevard on October 14, 2019.
Roxanne Novick checks on her husband Bret Bourland in a homeless camp at East Ben White Boulevard and South Congress Avenue on May 9, 2019. Roxanne Novick spent most of the morning moving all her possessions to the side of the road along East Ben White Boulevard. Police said her makeshift home in the brush between the highway and the frontage road was an “eyesore.” She and her husband had to move. The couple had been living in the shady area near Congress Avenue for five years — a trail of tarps, chairs and mattresses strewn in the dirt hardly visible from the road. Novick, 54, said she used to have a home and her husband a business. They lost both when Bourland caught his partner embezzling money and she was hospitalized after being hit by a car. Medical bills piled up, and they’ve been on the streets ever since.
Homeless people who recently died on the streets of Austin are remembered at the Homeless Memorial Tree at Vic Mathias Shores on November 18, 2019.
Austin police officers Gilbert Caraballo, left, and Mark Pircher detain a homeless man, who Caraballo identified as Fabian Garza, at a homeless camp on U.S. 290 near South Congress Avenue on October 15, 2019. A caller reported to police that a man matching Garza’s description was carrying a gun but when police arrived they did not find any weapons. Garza was questioned and released after briefly being detained.
Claudia Cuchia exchanges words with homeless man in the parking lot of a Target store at U.S. 290 and Pack Saddle Pass on November 6, 2019. Cuchia said she was angered by the homeless people camping under the highway. After they were removed from their camp under the overpass so Texas Department of Transportation workers could clean the camp, the homeless people moved to the Target parking lot where Cuchia shops.
Workers with the Texas Department of Transportation clean up a homeless camp at U.S. 290 at West Gate Boulevard on November 4, 2019. Gov. Greg Abbott ordered TxDOT workers to clear several large homeless camps under Austin-area highways after giving an ultimatum to Austin Mayor Steve Adler to act on the problem.
Danny Bonura quickly moves his tent as TxDOT workers arrive to clean a homeless camp under the U.S. 290 overpass at Pack Saddle Pass on November 6, 2019.
Chris Brown, who is homeless, watches TxDOT workers clean up the homeless camp under the U.S. 290 overpass at Pack Saddle Pass on November 14, 2019.
Michelle moves her belongings from the homeless camp under U.S. 290 at West Gate Boulevard while DPS troopers watch Texas Department of Transportation workers clean up the camp on November 4, 2019.
William Rainey waits with all of his belongings while Texas Department of Transportation workers clean up the homeless camp at U.S. 290 at West Gate Boulevard on November 4, 2019.
A homeless man falls to his knees in prayer on the sidewalk at U.S. 290 and Pack Saddle Pass after being removed from his homeless camp so TxDOT workers could clean the camp on November 6, 2019.
A homeless man yells at police officers who came to the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless on October 28, 2019, to inform the people living outside the shelter about the city’s new camping ban that went into effect that day. New city rules make it illegal for homeless people to live on the streets near the homeless shelter.
Gretta Riccobene, left to right, Taylor Cook, Sam Riccobene and Penny Adrian observe a moment of silence at a sunrise service in front of the Governor’s Mansion on November 1, 2019. Pastors of different denominations joined about 30 people to protest Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to clean out homeless camps under highway overpasses in Austin.
A sign marks the entrance to the state-owned homeless camp in southeast Austin on February 28, 2020.
Steven Dease, who is homeless, walks into the camp at a state lot on U.S. 183 about a mile south of Montopolis Drive on December 6, 2019. Gov. Greg Abbott chose the site to serve as a 5-acre temporary living space for people experiencing homelessness in Austin after he ordered TxDOT workers to clear several large homeless camps under highway overpasses. Dease was living in his van when he moved to Austin from St. Augustine, Florida, seven months ago but the van broke down and he lost it and most of his belongings. Then he lived under a U.S. 183 overpass in North Austin until TxDOT workers started doing regular cleanups.
The homeless camp is separated by a razor wire fence from an adjacent mobile home park on February 28, 2020.
Donna Lee Willis, 60, who said she has been homeless off and on all her life, rests inside her shelter in what appears to be a storage shed at a state lot on U.S. 183 about a mile south of Montopolis Drive on November 25, 2019.
Douglas Curtis builds a shelter with donated pallets at a state-owned temporary campsite for homeless at a TxDOT facility in southeast Austin on February 20, 2020. He said he became homeless 12 years ago for a number of reasons, and he displays the United States flag, “Because I’m an American.”
Deborah Swenson sits in her tent at the state-owned temporary campsite on February 20, 2020. Swenson said she became homeless in Shelburn, Indiana, and moved into the camp in December. She said she lost part of her finger after a bite from a brown recluse spider at the camp.
Marlon, who did want to give his last name, sits by his tent in the camp on February 28, 2020. The camp is separated from Palm Harbor Homes by a razor-wire fence. Marlon said he became homeless seven years ago after struggling with addiction and getting a divorce. He said he’s sober now. “I’m trying to get my life back together and get off the streets,” he said.
Danny Silver and his wife Margaret Post sit in their truck at the camp on February 28, 2020. They have been married 21 years, and became homeless two years ago after getting evicted from their trailer home. Now they live in their truck in the homeless camp. “I just want to get home. I want a home so bad,” Post said.
Kenneth Kemper washes in an outdoor shower with cold water from a hose at the camp on February 28, 2020. Kemper, who works part-time at an Amazon fulfillment center, moved into the camp in January. “When I get an apartment and I feel hot water I’m just going to stay in it for five hours,” he said.
Joe Manz shaves at the camp on February 27, 2020. He said he became homeless 8 years ago after losing his job, but he’s trying to get his life back together. “I’m turning over a new leaf for the benefit of the new Joe,” he said.
Roberto Salas Rodriguez, who has been homeless for seven years, builds at sturdy shelter out of salvaged lumber, tires and sandbags he filled with dirt at the camp on February 28, 2020..
A homeless man, who did not want to be identified, sweeps outside his tent at the camp on February 28, 2020. He said he became homeless in April after being released from prison.
Edward Ybarra and his girlfriend Missy James cook potatoes on an open flame at the camp on February 20, 2020. Ybarra said he’s been homeless since being released from a halfway house in August. “It’s better than being in jail,” he said of living in the homeless camp. James said she has been homeless for 10 years.
Jacob Medaris, 23, rests in his shelter in what appears to be a storage shed at a state lot on U.S. 183 about a mile south of Montopolis Drive on November 25, 2019. Medaris said he is originally from Russia and he came to Austin after a troubled childhood in Houston.
Alex Taylor sits in the storage shed where he lives at the camp on February 27, 2020. Taylor said he became homeless three years ago after a serious car accident. He said he owes $200,000 in medical bills he can’t afford to pay.
Antonio Solis looks out the storage shed where lives in the camp on February 27, 2020. Solis said he has been homeless for five years after serving time in prison for several DWIs. “This is the best thing I’ve had since I’ve been homeless,” Solis said about the camp.