AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, the Austin City Council unanimously approved a multi-million dollar plan to house the city's homeless community.
Councilmembers decided earlier this week to ditch their plan of building a controversial homeless shelter in South Austin.
Now, they've decided to spend $8 million in order to buy and renovate a hotel to temporarily house the homeless. Thursday morning, councilmembers approved a plan to buy the Rodeway Inn off of Interstate Highway 35, just south of Oltorf Street.
The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) – the nonprofit organization that helps the homeless – will pay for the operations.
"ECHO is going to start working with our partner organizations to figure out referral pathways into projects like this," said executive director, Matt Mollica. "As you know, 81 units is not going to solve homelessness here in Austin and Travis County. We’re going to have to look at using this as a model and continuing to work to acquire new properties for people to be in."
Despite this new effort, people in the area said it's a bad idea and more needs to be done.
"I’m in favor of helping the homeless, it’s just we have to know exactly how this is going to be done because we know this has not been done correctly everywhere," said Henri Daumas, who lives near the hotel.
Daumas said he's concerned it could end up looking how the ARCH used to.
"You see homeless people lined up waiting to get in and, if you go late at night, you’ll see homeless people passed out on drugs just around the corner. That’s the visuals we don’t want in our neighborhood," said Daumas.
Councilmember Ann Kitchen said that won't be the case at this location. She said the changes council made to the ordinance ban people from camping within a quarter-mile from a shelter.
"This is a place that people are referred to, are connected to social service, health care and other help they may need, with the goal to connect them to permanent housing," said Kitchen on Thursday.
Other speakers expressed concern about crime the shelter could possibly bring to the area.
Mollica said everyone deserves a safe place to live.
"I think crime doesn't increase because people experiencing homelessness are in your community and the benefits provided in this space will enhance the community and the surrounding community," Mollica said.
May Adler said he promises that he will come out there regularly and said he will be with the community at that site.
According to ECHO, the city manager's office and the real estate office will work with the hotel's current owners to see if they can start moving in as soon as possible. Mollica said there could be people moved in before the end of 2019.
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