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City resumes cleanups of homeless encampments

Thursday, January 30, 2020 by Tai Moses

The Watershed Protection Department has restarted its cleanups of homeless encampments adjacent to Austin’s creeks and drainage channels following a six-month pilot program that tested a standardized process for the task. According to a news release, watershed staffers “met with many people experiencing homelessness. The pilot provided staff with a new level of respect for the individuals facing such an incredible personal challenge.” City Council has approved $250,000 a year to pay for the work, which is intended “to help promote public safety and protect Austin residents from flooding, erosion and water pollution by ensuring our drainage infrastructure functions as intended.” The watershed department will give homeless campers 72 hours notice before starting a cleanup and pledges to “approach the cleanups with as much empathy and consideration as possible. … The department is working with community partners to engage those living in encampments and provide them with social services on an ongoing basis between scheduled cleanups.” Staff conducted 37 cleanups at nine different sites during the pilot program and removed 27 tons of material.

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