A series of videos posted on Twitter Monday shows the extent of damage Austin’s West Bouldin Creek Greenbelt has endured from a homeless encampment.
The videos, from Austin activist Jamie Hammonds, show the encampment covered in trash “as far as the eye can see,” including liquor bottles, needles, Narcan, and other junk.
“It’s just been destroyed. It’s going to be interesting to see if the city can actually clean this,” Hammond says in the video, arguing that the damage was “as bad if not worse” than Violet Crown, another greenbelt damaged by a homeless encampment earlier this year.
Hammonds told Fox News Digital, “you can smell the encampment even before you enter the greenbelt.”
“It is so much worse than the Violet Crown Trail,” Hammonds said. “If you look in the Austin guidebooks they talk about [West Bouldin Creek]. It’s one of their pride and joys, so to speak. And this place is never going to be the same.”
He added: “They may be able to get the trash out of there, but there’s going to be glass and batteries and junk, and it’s going to be there forever.”
Around 72 encampment inhabitants and their pets were transferred to the city-owned Southbridge shelter in mid-August as part of the city’s Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) Initiative.
The city says it carries out the closure of homeless encampments that pose “the highest public health and safety risks.”
A clean-up effort of West Bouldin Creek is currently underway involving multiple departments and could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
This was the second time in less than two years that the city had relocated inhabitants of the encampment.
The relocation comes after a series of incidents around the encampment that have raised concerns over public safety. In April, a SWAT team recovered high-powered military weapons and ammunition from the encampment after they were stolen from a storage facility, FOX 7 reported.
And more recently, a brush fire broke out at a homeless encampment near MoPac and Park Bend, north of The Domain.
A city spokesperson told Fox News Digital that homelessness is a “complex issue” that requires partnerships across multiple agencies, organizations, businesses, and individuals throughout the community.
The city has set aside $55 million for housing stabilization prevention, crisis response, and public space management. Austin has also invested more than $100 million of the American Rescue Plan Act funds into a variety of homeless services and system improvements.
“Mental health and substance use treatment are crucial to the development of a well-rounded homelessness prevention system,” Austin Council Member José “Chito” Vela of District 4 said in a statement. “In combination with housing, behavioral health services help keep at-risk individuals sheltered instead of outside in the elements.”
Greg Smith, an Austin resident who lives near West Bouldin Creek, expressed optimism about the efforts underway to address this crisis, but cautioned that the process will take time.
“I think my neighbors are concerned about the quality of life for themselves and for those experiencing homelessness and they just want positive action moving forward,” Smith told Fox News Digital. And they also know that it’s … not a one-month solution. It may not even be a one-year solution. It might be a three or four or five-year solution. And this is why I’m hopeful.”
Smith called Austinites “some of the most giving, friendliest people around.”
“I believe that Austin residents, and in particular Bouldin Creek residents, will do whatever they can … to do whatever they can to help those folks who are experiencing homelessness and get their green space back.”