Year-end review: 2021
It all started when Sanjay and Rupal Chaudhari opened the morning paper delivered to their hotel's front desk on Jan. 25 and saw the totally unexpected news:
The City of Austin would be purchasing the Candlewood Hotel on Pecan Park Boulevard for "permanent supportive housing" for people experiencing homelessness and varying kinds of addiction.
Homeowners and businesses in Northwest Austin (especially the Chaudharis, who share a parking lot with the Candlewood) were alarmed at the City's lack of transparency or advance notice. Concerned about the impact on their homes, businesses, and community, they quickly mobilized: collecting petition signatures, contacting elected officials, filing lawsuits, and doing everything they can to fight this planned conversion of a hotel into a shelter that will cost over $12 million to house around 50 people.
Here are some of the highlights of what we have done together to change the situation for the better.
Successful Demonstrations -- Several protests were held on Sunday afternoons along Pecan Park Boulevard during late winter and spring. Many who participated had never held a picket sign or attended a demonstration before! One such rally made the front page of the Austin American-Statesman, and future rallies continued to earn media attention and raise public awareness of the city's broken processes.
Lawsuits in Progress -- So far two have been filed. The big one, led by Williamson County, has generated headline news throughout the year. We understand a special prosecutor is being assigned. The other, filed by the Chaudharis, is still awaiting a hearing date. To donate to the legal fund click here (via GoFundMe).
Alternative Site Proposal -- On June 9, Stop Candlewood held a press conference at Austin City Hall to unveil a far-better location for a homeless shelter. The Airport Hilton, located just outside of ABIA airport, was identified as being near social services, away from residences and schools, could house hundreds more than the Candlewood, and (even better) is already owned by the city of Austin. While we did not gain much in the way of a response from city leaders for this suggestion, we did our due diligence in finding a better solution for Austin's unhoused population.
The REAL Town Hall for Northwest Austin -- On July 24, Stop Candlewood hosted an open mic forum for residents and business owners to air their concerns about the city's purchase of the Candlewood. We were thrilled to have nearly 70 in attendance and plenty of media coverage for our concerns and future plans.
Standing Up at City Hall -- On Aug. 11, the date of the city's purchase of the Candlewood, Stop Candlewood supporters bombarded the Austin City Council meeting with every fact and figure they needed to abandon the purchase of the Candlewood and select a better location to serve Austin's homeless. Instead, and under mounting pressure, Council members purchased the hotel under the guise of it becoming a domestic violence shelter. We haven't heard a word about it being a domestic violence shelter since that day, and future communications all refer to it as a homeless shelter.
A Conversation with Tom Wolf -- San Francisco homelessness reform and addiction recovery expert Tom Wolf hosted a conversation with Stop Candlewood and guests on Oct. 16. Following Wolf's eye-opening presentation, we were treated to the world premier of an upcoming mini-documentary on the homelessness-industrial complex. Learning from Tom, we see that Stop Candlewood has scratched the surface of a much deeper problem that needs to be fixed here in Austin and across America.
We're just getting started! We look forward to many more great things to come in 2022. Check your email inbox or our Facebook and Twitter for more exciting news soon.