Over the course of a year, crews collected more than 120 tons of waste from homeless camps in Austin parks

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austins Parks and Recreation Department said 311 calls about homeless camps have increased dramatically from about 25 calls a week earlier this year to about 90 calls a week now.

Several people were moved away from streets and sidewalks after voters brought the city’s public camping ban back in May.

“We are actually seeing the movement of homeless people into forest areas,” said Austin Homelessness Strategy Officer Dianna Gray. “And that includes our park areas.”

The Parks Department (PARD) said, based on 311 calls, at least 59 of the city’s 314 parks, or 19%, have camps right now.

Camping in the park is illegal and it was illegal when the public camping ban was lifted. The department said it visits every site where people report activity, lets individuals experiencing homelessness know what they are doing is illegal, and tries to connect those individuals to services.

Between May and July this year, PARD crews visited several camps to take stock of the area and share the message that it is illegal to camp in parks, the department said.

As the city and its partners try to leverage private dollars for an ambitious goal of housing 3,000 people over the next few years, PARD indicated that many people simply have nowhere else to go.

“Unfortunately, without any supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, many come to the park area,” a spokesman for the department said.

According to the latest report from the Parks and Recreation Board director, the city’s park crews and the Other Ones Foundation collected 255,606 pounds (127.8 tons) of waste from park campsites in fiscal year 2021. That’s enough garbage to fill a number of dump trucks parked bumper to bumper . half a mile according to the report.

PARD collaborates with a contractor for cleanup. A contract to clean up the Country Club Creek Greenbelt will cost the city between $ 125,000 and $ 195,000, according to the board director’s report. The job began Nov. 16 and was expected to take three weeks.

Another job will take longer. The spokesman for the Parks Department said another cleanup is expected to take months to complete. They did not name the site.

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