Black Austin-area leaders want new list of potential homeless camps

The Black Leaders Collective has said the current list is racist and full of inequities.

AUSTIN, Texas – From housing and land development to choosing the location of homeless camps, black leaders in the Austin area have said they have had enough of what they call the homeless. racist policies in the city for decades.

The Black Leaders Collective is a group that comes together to send a message to the city of Austin: redraw the map of the 45 proposed homeless campsites and include the community in the process.

One member, Barbara Scott, is the president of the Colony Park Neighborhood Association. She said her neighborhood needed a grocery store.

“We are considered a desert of food,” she says.

She has also been fighting for a health care facility and other resources for years.

“We don’t have a library east of 183,” Scott said.

Instead, what the East Austin neighborhood could get earlier is a homeless camp near the Colony Park District Park, which was completed last year.

But that confused the neighbors. Scott and others said the only land available for a homeless camp is 208 acres that have already been designated for the Colony Park Sustainable Community Project.

“I think it was absolutely unacceptable,” Scott said.

On Monday, Scott joined other black leaders in the Austin area in calling on the city to bring forward a new proposal for homeless camps. They pointed out that most of the proposed locations are on the east side, where six of the 45 are not in food deserts and nine of the 45 are in landfills.

Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Natasha Harper-Madison has said it is time for the disparities and racism to end.

“Since the 1928 master plan, this town has swept away all of its unwanted people and things on the east side of I-35. All the black schools, libraries and swimming pools have been set up here to keep us here. Then came landfills, power plants, tank farms. Divestment, lack of opportunities and the concentration of poverty have led to massive equity gaps. And we’re still struggling to shut them down today, ”Harper-Madison said.

Reverend Daryl Horton, president of the Austin Baptist Ministers’ Union, said the religious community is concerned about the homeless.

He expressed concern when the city starts drawing maps, citing more COVID-19 test sites on the city’s west side than on the east as an example of the disparity. He also pointed out that the proposed sites are too far from places where homeless people can get help.

“The problem we have is why would you put people in a place that won’t provide them with the resources, which won’t give them access to the things they need?” Horton asked.

The Black Leaders Collective said even putting together this preliminary list was a problem because of the optics. This is why they want the City to draw up a new list, this time with the participation of the community.

The list of proposed campsites is only preliminary. City council is expected to meet next week to discuss the next step in choosing locations.

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