A group of homeless people living in an abandoned, state-owned parking lot in Austin, Texas, formed a government earlier this month, with a spokesperson for the camp saying it has already selected a committee and held two town meetings.
According to Fox News, Cori Roberts, the secretary for the camp, announced that they have already filled seven positions on the new committee, including a “web designer.”
“We have donation and volunteer recruiters, we have maintenance and general labor recruiters, we have the web designer, and the media outreach, we have security, and then we have the treasurer/donation organizer,” said Roberts, reports the news agency.
The committee has also officially named the parking lot “Camp RATT” — Responsible Adult Transition Town — and apparently, the residents have already started going along with it. “For the homeless, run by the homeless,” says Roberts.
As the Texas Tribune reported last November, Governor Greg Abbott set aside the five-acre lot in an attempt to give the local homeless population an area to live somewhat close to downtown Austin.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office also mentioned that the lot includes “portable restrooms, hand washing stations, and comes with commitments from local charities to deliver food multiple times a day” and “will provide access to healthcare providers and homeless case workers to provide care for the homeless,” reports the news agency.
According to Fox News, the camp’s committee has a few potential ideas on the docket to improve the area that has been set aside for them, including improving the shower situation, which currently consists of two metal stalls and a water hose, securing more food donations, and hosting community events.
“Don’t be afraid to come out here. If you’ve got nowhere to live, you want the laws to leave you alone for being under a bridge, come out here. It’s safe. There’s not really any violence out here. We’re all a big family, a town,” said Roberts, reports the news agency.
“It’s important because we actually have a voice, we actually have a hand that we are actually putting forth to make our lives a little bit better,” said LaShawn Ramsey, the community’s web designer. “A lot of us have high school diplomas, we have college degrees, we’ve been in the workforce field, we’ve been general managers,” said Ramsey, reports the news agency.
According to ECHO, an advocacy group that focuses on homelessness in Austin, Texas, and the surrounding area, approximately 2,255 people in the city were homeless on any given night in 2018. But since this figure is for a city with over 950,000 people, the problem isn’t as drastic as it is in other places, such as Los Angeles.
According to the LA Times, there are approximately 4 million people living in Los Angeles, and a 2019 count conducted in the city reported 58,936 homeless people across the county.
Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) released a statement earlier this month announcing a $1.4 billion plan to tackle the issue, saying that “the state of California is treating it as a real emergency.”