Austin-Travis County creates new social services branch for emergency response during COVID-19 pandemic


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center created a new social services branch for emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a press release, the new social services branch will include multiple strike teams that will focus on a variety of efforts including homelessness, food access and behavioral health.

“The ability for everyone to participate in the public health response is in the best interest of our community’s safety as a whole,” said Vella Karman, Interim Homeless Services Officer. “Our neighbors experiencing homelessness must have the information and resources they need to make the safest, smartest choices during the pandemic.”

The branch’s homelessness task force will develop short and long term strategies related to gaps in the city’s homelessness response during COVID-19. Short term strategies include food access and personal hygiene. Long term strategies will include adding more shelter beds and the identification of a quarantine facility.

The food access task force will collaborate with community partners to addressing issues with Austin’s food systems in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally it will work create a strategy for the anticipated increase in food access needs.

The behavioral health task force will coordinate with the local mental health authority and other providers to develop strategies for emerging community needs as the pandemic continues.

In addition to the new social service branch, the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center launched an interactive online map to help residents fund the closest site for services. There are plans for a future update to include food access resources and basic needs services.

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