Homeless Community Put on Hold

Council member calls for one year moratorium on planned homeless community

The city's plan to create a new homeless community has been derailed after City Council Member Mike Martinez proposed this afternoon that council place a one year moratorium on any further progress.

The proposal is the Park Place community for homeless people, part of the Habitat on Wheels program run by local homeless charity Mobile Loaves and Fishes. It would turn an 11-acre site into a homeless community, using 100 converted RVs and 50 new cottages, to provide some longer-term security for individuals and families. The proposal, which would involve close coordination between the charity and local social services, also includes gardens, laundry facilities, a gym, and a flexible jobs program. The site would provide some stability for some of the 600 Austinites classified as chronically homeless (either continuously homeless for a year, or having been homeless at least four times in three years), who have passed a criminal background check, and is intended to break the cycle of living on the streets

But the plan seemed to collapse after Martinez and the group met last night with the Lincoln Gardens Neighborhood Association. This quickly devolved into a screaming match (literally) and now Martinez is going to ask council to put the plan on hold for a year.

In a press release, Martinez said, if adopted by the city, the moratorium will let Mobile Loaves and Fishes "work with neighborhood leaders to discuss options." See below the fold for the full release.

Council Member Martinez to seek one-year delay to address issues about RV park for homeless

Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez announced today he will ask the City Council to reconsider its immediate lease of City-owned land in East Austin for an RV park for the homeless.

Council Member Martinez, one of the sponsors of the lease agreement, wants the Council to tell staff to suspend for a year lease negotiations and site preparations. During that time, City leaders and representatives of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, the entity that would have operated the proposed site, will work with neighborhood leaders to discuss options.

"I’ve taken the time over the past several weeks to listen to the concerns of residents in the area of the proposed Mobile Loaves and Fishes site,” Council Member Martinez said. “By and large the responses were not only passionate, but raised issues that we must address before moving forward.

“While I am still committed to both the efforts of Mobile Loaves and Fishes and creating solutions for our city’s homeless, I will be recommending that the City Manager suspend all deliberations between the City of Austin and Mobile Loaves and Fishes for a year,” Martinez said. “I firmly believe that we have a responsibility and an obligation to tackle this very complex issue.”

Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Habitat on Wheels Program would have provided mobile homes and manufactured housing at an approximately 11-acre site off Harold Court in East Austin, adjacent to a City industrial service yard.

The lease negotiations and execution of an agreement were approved by Council on April 7. Before that approval, a public hearing was conducted and City Health, Police and Code Enforcement staff had worked on requirements for the facility to ensure both resident and general public safety. “Over the course of the next year, Mobile Loaves and Fishes has committed to meeting with all residents of the impacted neighborhoods and work to address any and all concerns,” Council Member Martinez said.

“It is my sincere hope that we can spend the next 12 months having a productive dialogue focused on addressing these issues and finding solutions regarding this development and its proposed location,” he said. “At the end of that process, we will make a determination as to whether or not this location is the most appropriate for this type of development."

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