An initiative to address unsheltered homelessness will prioritize rehousing people currently living at four encampments in different parts of the city, according to an update issued Tuesday. The first phase of the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link, a program established in February, is expected to be completed by late summer.
That phase will focus on rehousing people at the four sites—located in south, east, downtown, and northwest Austin—and ultimately establish them as noncamping areas by the end of August.
Dianna Grey, the city’s homeless strategy officer, told the City Council during a Tuesday work session that the initiative will include extensive efforts to relocate residents by providing dedicated housing resources and temporary shelter where needed. Some of the specific methods for achieving that goal will include encampment outreach and engagement activities; providing immediate access to low-barrier, temporary shelter resources; coordinating and contracting with services for permanent housing; and using “effective and non-punitive measures to encourage voluntary compliance once camping is no longer permitted in a particular site,” according to the statement.
HEAL "will not only have an immediate impact on the lives of people living in unstable and inhumane conditions, but will also build the entire system's capacity to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring,” Grey said.
The initiative has a preliminary budged of $4.3 million; the council is expected to discuss additional funding at its regular meetings during the next moth. HEAL will incorporate information gleaned from previous Austin initiatives to address veteran homelessness, youth homelessness, and Guided Path, a pilot project started to address the encampment around the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless downtown. The city’s Homeless Strategy Division is working with housing and service providers, other city departments, and the Austin Homeless Advisory Council to carry out its plans. In addition, the last phase of the initiative will be planned and carried out in coordination with the entity or jurisdiction that owns or manages the site; those include the city Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Public Library, and the Texas Department of Transportation.