, 2022-07-14 21:36:06,
Prophet Dwight Dwayne Pierce inside his encampment in Roy Guerrero Park on June 27, 2022 (photos by John Anderson)
The mood was not joyous in early June, as Southeast Austin residents gathered at the Montopolis Recreation and Community Center to discuss their concerns about an encampment of unhoused people at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park. Staff from Parks and Recreation, Austin Public Health, and the Austin Police Department were on hand to field questions.
One Little League softball coach said that he was stabbed at a park facility in May. Other people spoke of their cars being broken into, and of vandalism that has left a park concession stand inoperable. Parents said they didn’t feel safe bringing their kids to the park. Israel Lopez, president of Montopolis Little League, said that much of his organization’s equipment at the park has been stolen or damaged “beyond repair.” Animating all of these concerns was a feeling that if the park were located in another neighborhood, the city would never have allowed the encampment at Roy Guerrero to grow large enough to disrupt community programming.
“The location of this particular encampment, from our community perspective, is the logical consequence of city mismanagement and city officials not wanting to address fundamental questions related to equity in our city,” said Montopolis community activist Fred McGhee. “There’s a reason this encampment is not in Pemberton Heights.”
Frustration with the city’s handling of homelessness in Southeast Austin has been building for months, among both the housed and unhoused. Many at the encampment, which centers on the final holes of Roy Guerrero’s disc golf course, relocated there after being swept from more visible sites nearby, such as Longhorn Shores or along East Riverside. Robert Reyes, a 58-year-old who’as been living in the park for just over five months, said he feels like the city is trying to push him “out of sight.”
For community leader Susana Almanza, director of the Eastside environmental group PODER and twice a City Council candidate, the city’s decision to sweep encampments along the East Riverside corridor traded one problem for a host of other problems. “There’s not as much poverty in the city, but it just shifted it further to the outskirts,” Almanza said. The East Riverside camps “became a real…
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