Occupy Austin Plans Camp for Homeless
Occupy Austin is celebrating its anniversary Saturday. Many Occupy groups across the country have struggled lately to find a cause they can support, and Austin occupiers want to help the homeless.
Local Occupiers want to build a temporary camp tomorrow and fill it with some of Austin’s homeless. It may be an outdoor tent city, or an occupation of an empty building or warehouse. The group won’t say exactly where, fearing that Austin police will try to stop them.
“We will be popping up our own tents and encouraging folks to come from all over Austin from the woods, from the streets, to come and set up camps to make targets of areas that are not being used right now when we have a relatively large homeless population,” said Occupy’s Peter Cooper.
At a recent Occupy meeting outside City Hall, final ideas were hatched before the tent city rises tomorrow. Fingers wiggled up in approval, down when there was disagreement.
“I’m here for being on tent city medical staff and possibly security out there, just for anybody disobeying our standards and rules,” Jim Bird said.
The Occupiers’ own rules are simple: no fighting, no drinking. Legal rules, however, are more complicated. Occupying property, even if it’s owned by the city or not being used, may be considered trespassing. So Occupy Austin members expect Austin police to find them, chase them out, and perhaps arrest some of them.
Occupiers say the need for affordable housing in Austin is evident, and urgent. The Salvation Army estimates that 5,000 people live in the city’s streets, parks and wild areas. In fact, the city is asking voters this November to approve a $78 million bond package to expand affordable housing options. But that takes time.
“Your typical capital project could be a multiyear project, and it could be something on a short time frame — a year, a year and a half,” said Mike Trimble in the city’s Capital Planning Office. “If there’s more complexities added to them, will take longer. And they can be three to five years, sometimes longer, depending on how much complexities there are.”
Voters approved a similar package in 2006, for $55 million. The city says that money has been spent. Yet the need continues to grow. Some advocates estimate the homeless population in Austin has at least doubled since 2000.