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Hundreds of homeless receive clothing from local church

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Several hundred people, who live on the streets in Austin, turned out Tuesday at a downtown church to receive warm clothing.

It's estimated that there are more than 4,000 people living on the streets in downtown Austin. The growing transient and homeless population is facing more opposition from a growing downtown residential population.

A cold wind cut through the long line of people that wrapped around the First Baptist Church of Austin. It was not spiritual salvation they were seeking Tuesday, but a gift of warm clothing.

Juan Gonzales, who has been on the streets for five years, was among those who received a wool hat, warm socks and thermal underwear. He is hoping for something better in 2013.

"Right now just a couple of good breaks lucky breaks that's pretty much all it is," Gonzales said.

The annual New Year's event comes on the heels of what was a pretty rough 2012 for people like Gonzales.

Austin police cracked down on aggressive panhandling, while the Chief suggested the downtown shelters should be relocated.

Meanwhile complaints from business owners resulted in several new street benches being removed and electrical outlets, which were being used to recharge phones and power up boomboxes were locked up.

The attitude toward the Austin street community started changing with the skyline. And as the growth downtown continues, so does the pressure.

Homeless advocate Richard Troxell, who organized the clothing give-away says he is bracing for a crisis.

"I think as long as people out live the resources that's what is going to happen, in inevitable so we have to deal with this," Troxell said.

According to a recent survey by Troxell 52 percent of those living on the streets cannot work because of health problems. Forty-eight percent are able to work. But according to Troxell the few jobs available don't pay enough to get people off the streets.

Waylon Barnes is among those having a hard time finding work because of a troubled past.

"Cause I'm a convicted felon, and it's kind of hard no one wants to hire ya if you've got a felony on your record and it would be a lot easier if people could see past that," Barnes said.

A new survey is being done to update the needs and concerns of the downtown dwellers. Troxell and his group is pushing for a higher hourly wage law. Plus an increase in emergency shelter space. According to Troxell there are only a total of 607 beds for a population that is growing beyond those living on the streets.

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