Winter storm response has been a Council priority
By Austin Sanders, 1:25PM, Thu. Nov. 30, 2023
An electric meter at the Jamestown-Payton Gin intersection on Feb. 15, 2021 (Photo by John Anderson)
Providing shelter and resources to people in need during the cold winter months has historically been a challenge for the city, but that could change this year, according to a staff update provided to City Council at their work session Nov. 28.
At the meeting, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department Director Ken Snipes highlighted progress city staff made on setting up 14 resilience hubs that are expected to be operational before inclement weather strikes. The hubs, most of which are located Downtown or in Travis County’s eastern crescent, will provide food and supplies to people during ice storms or other dangerously cold weather events. They will also serve as warming centers for people to get out of the cold. Thanks to an increase in the city budget last year, six of the centers will have backup generators on-site to ensure they can continue providing warmth and resources.
David Gray, the city’s newly appointed Homeless Strategy Officer, told Council that staff would once again deploy a shuttle service to help transport the city’s unhoused residents to warming centers and emergency shelters during winter storms. Utilized for the first time last winter, the system establishes a centralized meeting point (last year it was the city-owned One Texas Center, but it is unclear where the location will be this winter) where people travel to and are then transported to a warming center or shelter.
The system received some criticism last year, because in some cases information about the embarkation center was not communicated to unhoused people with enough notice to be acted upon. This year, Gray said, the city is considering working with a partner organization to run a shuttle service to and from homeless encampments to help bring those interested in shelter to the centralized meeting location.
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