AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Transportation has officially begun clearing debris from homeless encampments under state highways in Austin.
- TxDOT crews ordered to clean up camps
- Focusing on 17 locations
- Several people unsure of where they will go
The move comes at the order of Gov. Greg Abbott, who threatened state intervention if local leaders in Austin did not make enough headway in addressing homelessness.
On Monday, state contractors began cleaning up a homeless encampment near South Lamar Boulevard. TxDOT is focusing on 17 locations along U.S. Highway 290, Interstate 35, and U.S. Highway 183.
The camps may have been clearing up, but crews are not actually authorized to tell people to relocate permanently or prevent them from coming back once they leave. However, Abbott, has directed TxDOT to conduct cleanups weekly, or even more, if the situation warrants it.
Crews will likely reach Andrea Aguilar’s camp near Burnet Road. While she has packed up most of her belongings, the 38-year-old refuses to go into hiding.
"At the end of the day, coming and cleaning us out from under the bridges, there still has got to be a solution about where we got to go. That’s inhumane, we’re not dogs, we’re human beings,” she said.
Like many experiencing homelessness in Austin, Aguilar is awaiting services. The TxDOT notices posted under the overpasses suggest that people reach out to nonprofits that are already at capacity.
“There’s a long waiting list. I just got an ID so I’m working from there. I’m not going to be in a tent forever, I’m not going to be in a tent past another year, I’m motivated,” she said.
Aguilar has also put up a sign that reads, “We are worth a safe solution.”
“Whether it’s in a tent, whether it’s in a car, or whether it’s in a condo or studio, or motel, we need security,” she said.