Commissioners approve homeless RV park



Posted on August 13, 2013 at 6:50 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 14 at 1:35 PM

AUSTIN -- Debate picked up Tuesday for plans to build an RV park designated for the homeless in Eastern Travis County.

Travis County commissioners held a public hearing before taking a vote in which they unanimously approved the land permits for the park.

According to plans released by Mobile Loaves and Fishes, the Sunshine RV Park would stretch out over 27 acres off Hog Eye Road near Decker Lane in Eastern Travis County. The park already had approval from the City of Austin’s Zoning Committee but also had to get approval from Travis County commissioners.

At the meeting, red buttons with the word "home" marked supporters of the approved park.

"We need to give these people a home so that we can no longer call them homeless," said Daniel Sauceda, who says he lives about 50 yard from the site. "Society is always against the homeless, and now here's a program that is standing up for them; we can't shoot it down. We have to believe in this as a community."

But some of Sauceda's Woodland Hills neighbors have concerns. Petitions with more than 330 signatures opposing the park have already been presented to the City and county.

"I feel my neighbors and I are valued less than the population that could be moving into our area," said resident Michelle Keith to commissioners.

"Safety has a lot to do with it," said another resident, Tony Federico.

Many of those in opposition live in the Woodland Hills neighborhood, which sits less than a half a mile from where Sunshine RV Park will be developed. Federico says a lot of their hesitation comes from uncertainty.

"There's so much of a wait and see approach. We don't know if it's going to be a good or bad thing," Federico explained.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes says the 27-acre plan has been in the works for nine years. Homes range from a $90/month cottage to a $375/month home.

"I think its now time to say 'yes, in my backyard.' We need to get this one on the ground so that people can see that this is something very positive for our Central Texas community," said Mobile Loaves and Fishes CEO Alan Graham.

Graham says the RVs are already being used throughout Austin and boast an 87% success rate of getting the homeless off the streets.

"All I have experienced from them is love and help and hope," said Robert Burden, who is formerly homeless.

Burden has lived in one of Mobile Loaves and Fishes RVs for more than two years. He says it allowed him to get a job and even to reconnect with his son, who now lives with him.

"I would love for you guys to give the homeless, my homeless brothers and sisters, a chance to have a place to call home," Burden explained.

To move in, a person must be single and on the streets of Central Texas for a year or longer with a physical or mental disability. They must also have a source of income.

"I'll welcome them in my home. I'll learn from them. I don't know what I'll be able to teach them, but I tell you what. I'm going to learn from them, and I look forward to it," Sauceda said.

According to plans released by Mobile Loaves and Fishes, the park will include 12 lots. One would be designated for commercial use. The remaining 11 would be a mix of single family homes and detention.

As for transportation, Graham says there's a bus stop about one mile away. They're also encouraging Cap Metro to stop at the park. Mobile Loaves and Fishes will also provide 17 passenger buses.