As the all-Democrat Austin City Council prepares for a regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday, sources in northwest Austin have expressed their concerns to Texas Scorecard about the council’s Agenda Item 69: spending nearly $1 million to rent a questionable 60-day “emergency housing” facility allegedly due to COVID-19.
Item 69, if approved, would set up a $910,000 citizen-funded COVID isolation facility in a northwest Austin hotel, open for 60 days with the option to extend for another three months.
One glaring question immediately emerges: Why now? What needs currently exist that didn’t show up in the past eight months? Coronavirus cases in Austin peaked almost five months ago, yet only now does the city council want to open this facility.
Northwest Austin residents told Texas Scorecard they believe city hall is using COVID as a smokescreen to put a homeless shelter in their neighborhood.
Indeed, the city council has already used hotels as homeless shelters in recent months, spending exorbitant amounts of citizens’ cash to house only a handful of homeless in low-barrier and high-risk places (in 2019, the city council spent $8 million to buy a run-down hotel for 81 homeless individuals).
The council’s controversial homeless hotels are similar to a recent initiative by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, as well as similar failed projects in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Additionally, the council enflamed the entire local homelessness issue last year, when it allowed homeless individuals to camp in nearly every public space across the city—a decision that sparked a wildfire of public backlash, safety risk, and an increase in violent crime.
Regarding the latest potential facility, there is also the question of its precise location. According to the city of Austin’s map, this “emergency housing” would actually be located in Austin’s Williamson County portion, seemingly giving the nominally Republican county jurisdiction.
Residents concerned with the council’s latest potential spending project can contact Austin City Councilmember Jimmy Flannigan at (512) 978-2106 and Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell Jr. at (512) 943-1550.