Eight months ago, things were looking bleak for 46-year-old Texas man Jason Fleischman. According to KXAN, he had been living beneath the U.S. Route 183 in North Austin, while cycling through different hospitals, thinking he was going to die.
His recovery journey brought him to a former Country Inn & Suites, KXAN reports. The hotel space had been purchased by the City of Austin, and now serves as permanent supporting housing. During the pandemic, it has served as a safe space for high-risk homeless individuals. Here, they have access to on-site physical and mental health care.
The former Country Inn & Suites, among other motels and facilities, has served as an early test to Austin’s motel conversion strategy, and it seems to be working!
Through the services and resources Fleischman received, it helped him earn the confidence to secure a part-time job and an apartment.
“I won. I didn’t lay down and decide to die. I decided to get up and quest for more life… If you really want help, help is there. You gotta do the leg work.”Jason Fleischman
However, concerns have been raised by neighbors living next to these hotels and facilities, many arguing and protesting that the plan not only wouldn’t solve Austin’s homelessness problem, it could also potentially create a safety issue.
On Thursday, February 11, the Austin City Council will vote to purchase a fourth hotel for permanent supportive housing, the Candlewood Suites in northwest Austin. The topic has been met with debate, with homeowners and business owners questioning the cost and the location.
If approved, the city would spend $9.5 million to add 80 units. Last week, the council approved the purchase of the Texas Bungalows & Suites last week for $6.7 million, ultimately creating 65 units.
Dr. Audrey Kang, who visits the protective lodges weekly with her CommUnityCare Healthcare for the Homeless team, urges people to really look into the numbers and assess the impact that has been made (like the recovery of Jason Fleischman).
“While you see that sticker shock, if you can see the other side of it… We’re spending on hospital care and readmissions and a workforce that can’t be utilized…
This is huge and the impact that we’re seeing in such a short amount of time is unparalleled to anything I’ve seen.”Dr. Audrey Kang
Lead image: KXAN.