Residents: Mission unlivable

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 1999

Six men told their story outside of the Austin City Council Chambers Monday night.

Tuesday, November 02, 1999

Six men told their story outside of the Austin City Council Chambers Monday night. All are residents of the Mission – a sort of shelter/dormitory located north of Austin – and had come to the Austin City Council meeting to ask the city for help.

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"We’re living like pigs out there," Arturo Romara said. "We were promised food – there’s no food, only rice, beans and potatoes and one small pan to cook in. If we want to do dishes we have to take them to the other end of the bedroom, there’s no sink in the kitchen. The water stinks – it’s not drinkable."

Mission manager Lorenzo Quintanar – his card reads account manager and assistant human resources manager for Metro Temp Employment Agency of Des Moines – wasn’t at the council meeting. After the meeting, standing just outside the Mission, he refuted many of the claims made by the informal delegation from the Mission. He would not allow any members of the press inside the building.

Instead of 15 living in the Mission, Quintanar said there were eight. Instead of 20 bunk beds, he said there were 12. When they said they had to walk to do laundry or go to the store, he said he was taking them in the company van.

When asked about the men’s claims that they were paying rent of $50 a week, plus $5 a day for transport, he said the men were only asked to contribute toward Mission expenses after their first two weeks.

Quintanar, who has only been in Austin three weeks, described the Mission as a "stepping stone."

"Many of these people were homeless, living on the street or in shelters," the Mission manager said. "We bring them here where they can get a job, let them stay here for two weeks and then encourage them to find a place of their own."

In response to claims from the men that he was getting their "bottled drinking water" from a tap outside the Conoco station, Quintanar silently took a drink of the water.

Quintanar didn’t know when his boss Bobbi Gobel would be in Austin next. He did say she was supposed to be here Monday, but that she didn’t come because she was ill. Nor did he know if it was Gobel, Metro Temp, or the Life and Liberty foundation she runs that owned the Mission.

"I came up here three weeks ago because there was too much drinking and smoking going on in the Mission," Quintanar said. "The men weren’t taking care of the building, there were burns in the carpet. We don’t allow any drinking or smoking inside the building."

"Does Austin have any shelters," one of the men standing outside the Mission said. "Because I don’t know where we’re gonna go if we get kicked out of here."