Austin has formed a new group in hopes of streamlining its approach to managing homeless encampments.
The city recently launched the Homeless Encampment Management Team, a multidepartmental group that will coordinate management of public spaces occupied by homeless encampments. The group will implement a new system to prioritize almost $5 million budgeted for cleanups across the city.
The city will use a central response structure for encampment management so that action is prioritized and resources are deployed to encampments that present the highest risk to health and safety. Additionally, the new Homeless Encampment Management (HEM) tracking and prioritization tool will support consistent data capture and improve understanding of needs, risks, and trends across encampments in the city.
The Homeless Encampment Management Team will use the HEM Tool to score encampments for cleanup and closure. The tool will also be used to select sites for the HEAL (Housing-focused Encampment Assistance Link) Initiative, which provides occupants with access to shelter and longer-term housing resources.
“The launch of a formalized cross-departmental Homeless Encampment Management Team and prioritization tool will help the City of Austin ensure that its resources are efficiently and equitably deployed. At the same time, the structure will enhance our ability to track conditions in encampments, as well as related public space management activities,” said Dianna Grey, Austin's homeless strategy officer ,in a press statement.
Funding in the recently adopted fiscal year 2023 city budget, which allocated around $84 million to preventing and addressing homelessness, includes $4.8 million dedicated to encampment cleanup.