A Call for Compassionate Action
“This park is important to us. This park is our history. The people who live here have lived here for generations. St. John’s is our home. And just as our physical homes were taken through gentrification, our community is now also being threatened with displacement. We take care of this land. We appreciate this land. We are this neighborhood. We are the ones that were born on this Austin soil. To begin pushing us out during Black History month is just another slap in the face.” That’s Luke Curry speaking–a 4th generation Austinite and leader at St. John’s camp neighbor wants you to see his face and hear his voice.
The St. John’s Encampment is one of Austin’s most predominantly Black encampments. Having no legal place to exist, our unhoused neighbors settled there within the last 3 years, and have worked hard to maintain peace and cleanliness amongst themselves.
A camp-wide sweep was originally scheduled for late February during freezing conditions. With just a few days’ warning, notices were posted that the camp was scheduled for a “sweep,” on Thursday, February 17th. And to everyone’s dismay, it became clear that HEAL had not been prioritized.
For those that have not experienced a sweep, it often includes the destruction and removal of belongings, whether or not campers are present to quickly collect vital belongings such as identification, medications, or documentation required for receiving services. Our unhoused neighbors report that this is an extremely traumatic experience.
Organizers are meeting with city staff and officials to negotiate a better outcome for St. John’s. The sweep has been temporarily delayed until March 20th, 2022 while planning takes place to create a just transition for these unhoused neighbors. Participating in these planning sessions are representatives from Austin Area Urban League, Community Resilience Trust, Little Petal Alliance, the Homeless Strategy Office, and the Office of Council Member Chito Vela.
The solution will not come without a price tag, however. Just to get the campers effectively started with private housing placement and other alternatives will cost $100,000. You can answer the call by donating below. 100% of funds donated to this project will go toward supporting folks from the St. John’s encampment in their needs in securing housing and safe haven, with financial transparency through a community report to all contributors following this initiative.