Oct 28, 2021 - News

Downtown homeless numbers decline

A homeless encampment under a bridge

A homeless camp under a bridge on I-35 in Austin on February 17, 2021. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

The number of people experiencing homelessness in downtown Austin seemingly dropped 55% between May and October, according to a new count by the Downtown Austin Alliance.

Driving the news: The group attributes the decline to implementation of the city's Homelessness Encampment Assistance Link Initiative, the reinstatement of the city's camping ban and a new statewide camping ban.

Yes, but: The latest camping bans have forced Austinites experiencing homelessness to retreat out of sight over fears of getting ticketed or arrested, the Texas Tribune reported.

  • Austin does not have enough shelters to house its estimated 3,000 residents experiencing homelessness, and critics of the camping ban say it's likely that many are forced into hidden, more dangerous areas of the city.

By the numbers: Downtown Alliance estimates that 365 people are currently experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the area.

  • In May, the group said approximately 813 people were living unsheltered downtown.

"We remain cautiously optimistic about the progress as many people who were living unsheltered downtown accepted temporary housing provided by the City of Austin through the HEAL initiative," said Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance.

The other side: "For many of the unsheltered population, shelter or housing was not readily available," Peart added. "There is still much work to be done to help this population not only with housing, but also with supportive services."


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