As Gov. Abbott had promised last week, crews from the Texas Department of Transportation Monday afternoon began clearing the homeless off of highway rights of way in Austin, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"Its a slow process and won't be completed in one day," the Governor said. "but steady progress is being made."
Abbott said the action will make Austin safer, and will also lead to better alternatives for the homeless.
The first area to be cleared of the homeless, their camps, and their belongings, is Westgate Blvd. and U.S. 290. The governor said there will be 17 more TxDOT operations to clear the homeless off of public highway rights of way, and says the operation will continue every week.
Officials say needles, feces, rats, and makeshift weapons were found in the camp. The homeless were allowed to keep some items, but the vast majority of the items in the camps were disposed of into large trash containers.
Austin's homeless crisis has been a major issue since earlier this year, when Austin legalized 'urban camping' on public places, leading a surge in homeless people who set up camps in shopping and business areas, and around the University of Texas. Interestingly, when Austin Council approved its original resolution, one of the places were 'urban camping' was not allowed was around City Hall.
Last month, under growing pressure from business owners who said sleeping homeless people were preventing customers from getting to their stores, Austin Council tighted the regulations on where the homeless could set up shop.
City officials maintain their goal is to get the homless off the streets and into housing, but many Austin residents applauded the actions to remove the homeless camps from highway overpasses and underpasses.