Homeless encampments under Austin highway overpasses to be cleared out, Texas governor says

Officials in Texas' capital city will begin clearing homeless encampments from underpasses on state highways early next week after the homelessness crisis came to a head this year when the city repealed a camping ban that allowed people to sleep or camp in any public area.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted the announcement Tuesday, saying that Texas Department of Transportation will begin clearing homeless camps from underpasses in Austin as early as Monday, November 4.

State workers were out Tuesday posting notices of the planned cleanup, part of what Abbott called a "day of action."

"Safety will improve soon," the governor said. "The homeless will be offered options for shelter, food, clothing & healthcare."

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In an open letter previously penned to Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Abbott had mentioned that Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, could possibly become involved in the homeless crisis. Austin officials faced major backlash after voting in June to repeal a homeless camping ban that allowed people to sit, lie down and camp in most public places where they previously wouldn't have legally been able to.

Homeless encampment cleanups will begin as early as Monday under highway overpasses in Austin, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Homeless encampment cleanups will begin as early as Monday under highway overpasses in Austin, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. (FOX7)

At the time, Abbott made his disapproval immediately known on Twitter, threatening to override the ordinances.

On Oct. 17, the Austin City Council voted to reinstate some of those restrictions, banning camping on all city sidewalks or in wildfire risk areas, which the governor called a "meaningful step" to address safety and health concerns, FOX7 reported at the time.

After Abbott's announcement on Tuesday, Austin's mayor voiced his concerns over the state's latest plan.

"I hope what is happening here next week is not just an effort to move people or to hide people," Adler told reporters.

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Diann Hodges from TxDOT told FOX7 on Tuesday that the agency has done similar cleanups for several years before they were transitioned to Austin officials in March.

"We received direction from the governor that he would like us to step in and do some of these cleanups," she said. "It is not unusual that we would come in and do these sort of cleanups."

Hodges said when crews come across personal belongings that are not trash or a debris item, they are typically stored for 30 days. In addition to the notices on Tuesday, reflective bags "Be Safe, Be Seen" bags that allow visibility at night were also handed out, which are meant for homeless people to have a place to store any important documents they may have.

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Andrea Aguilar, who has lived under an overpass for U.S. 183 for about seven months, stressed she did not want to be in her current position.

"I don’t want to be out here and I can guarantee you that seven out of 10 people over there don't want to be out there," she told FOX7.

While she hasn't been bothered by anyone in the months since Austin relaxed its camping restrictions, she was concerned over the state's plan to clear out underpass areas.

"What's he want us to do? Hide in the woods?" she said.

Fox News' Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.