Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

TxDOT purchases land that could double capacity of Esperanza Community shelter for the unhoused community

Daniel Guel
Esperanza Community in Austin, Texas on Thursday Feb. 22, 2024.

The Texas Department of Transportation acquired seven additional acres for the expansion of an East Austin shelter for the unhoused community, potentially doubling its space, according to a Feb. 8 press release.


Local nonprofit The Other Ones Foundation built the Esperanza Community in 2019 under TxDOT’s guidance as a state-sanctioned encampment for the unhoused community in Austin along I-35, according to the press release. According to its website, the nonprofit provides substance use support, emergency shelter and work opportunities for people experiencing houselessness in Austin.


According to a national study posted on the city’s website, about 10,000 people are currently unhoused in Austin — adding up to roughly 1% of the city’s entire population. 


The Esperanza Community helps transition people out of houselessness through community living with hygiene facilities and 200 individual shelter units, according to its website.


“When we initially established our community, we couldn’t have anticipated the significant support we would receive from TxDOT, the city, and the state to enrich our offerings for those affected by homelessness,” TOOF executive director Chris Baker said in the press release. “We are deeply grateful for their assistance and believe positive impact can be extended even more with the active engagement and support of Austin’s community members and local partners.” 

Kristen Holladay, a biochemistry and math junior, is the president of the student organization Hunger and Homelessness Outreach.

The organization distributes clothes and food to Austin communities in need and volunteers with organizations such as TOOF, Holladay said. She said housing is a human right.

“This expansion is a really great idea because it helps provide what’s called non-congregate housing, which will basically help people who are underserved get a little bit more privacy,” Holladay said.

Non-congregate housing is a form of accommodations that provides private rooms and is beneficial for groups like parents, pet owners and the LGBTQ+ community, Holladay said.

“When you’re dealing with homelessness … and you don’t feel like you ever have your own space, that can make things worse for people mentally and emotionally,” Holladay said.

TxDOT purchased the land in preparation for the I-35 Capital Express Central project, according to the press release, which will “remove elevated structures and reconstruct bridges” along I-35 that unhoused individuals seek shelter under. The project will begin construction sometime this year, according to its website

“This additional capacity for temporary housing for those at risk of experiencing homelessness will allow more Texans to get the services they need at the Esperanza Community,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in the press release. “This will help ensure TxDOT can continue the planned reconstruction of I-35.” 

Holladay said she is surprised but happy to see the state investing in resources for unhoused individuals.

“Our state is acknowledging the issue and trying to work towards more solutions,” Holladay said. “A lot of the time it feels like homelessness is an issue that sometimes gets pushed to the side because people don’t want to acknowledge it as much, and so for the state to be able to help out and provide this land is actually really nice.”

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About the Contributor
Daniel Guel, General Photographer
Daniel is a fourth year journalism student from Houston, TX. He is currently a  general photographer at the Texan.