Austin launches new program to reduce homeless camping outside the ARCH

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — New efforts are underway in Austin to get people to stop camping outside the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH).

The City of Austin released Thursday details of their homeless encampment strategy known as “The Guided Path.”

Lori Pampilo Harris, Austin’s outgoing Homeless Strategy Officer, said the program works in three phases.

  1. Assessment and engagement
  2. Service referral
  3. Sustainability and accountability

She explained that the city is working with partner organizations to first go out and talk to every single person who’s been sleeping outside the ARCH, but have never come into the shelter to ask for help.

Homeless camps on Neches Street in downtown Austin. (KXAN Photo/Yoojin Cho)

“At this point we’re meeting people where they’re at. We’re getting to know their stories,” said Darilynn Cardona-Beiler with Integral Care. “The hope is within the next couple of weeks, we’ll have a plan, an individual plan for each individual we’re meeting.”

IN DEPTH: Homeless policy from most restrictive to least restrictive

Cardona-Beiler said the goal is to have a list of what every single person who’s outside the shelter needs in order to find housing and immediately provide that service. That can be mental health help or something as simple as a place to store their belongings.

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH). (KXAN Photo/Yoojin Cho)

Pampilo Harris said, “They want to know if ‘I’m going to a shelter, is there a housing plan? Where am I going to land? If I’m just going to be back in the state of homelessness — then why go in?

Greg McCormack, Executive Director of Front Steps, said, “It’s also about trust. Trusting that coming in will lead to something when maybe it hasn’t in the past.”

Ultimately, they want to connect people to housing.

“This pilot is to ensure that we know each person, their needs, and immediately wrap them with supports and move them into either shelter, treatment or housing as needed,” said Cardona-Beiler.

Pampilo Harris said the pilot will also let the city know where they’re lacking resources.

“If we come to find out that there’s not enough low-barrier shelter, then we would talk about what does that look like,” she said. “If we come to find out there’s folks who are already case managed, but they’re just waiting for affordable housing with low barriers, then we need to go find out where there are more housing units with low barriers.”

(KXAN/Yoojin Cho)

Pampilo Harris said, at this time, because this all depends on who wants what kind of help, they don’t know how long or how much money it’ll take. But they’re committed.

“However long and whatever it takes to get them housed. That’s the bottom line,” she said.

The city has been working with various partners on this project including Integral Care, Front Steps, Austin Recovery, Caritas of Austin, Casa Marianella, Communities for Recovery, ECHO, Family Eldercare, Foundation Communities, Foundation for the Homeless, LifeWorks, SAFE Alliance, Salvation Army and The Other Ones Foundation.

Last week, the city announced Pampilo Harris is transitioning from being a full-time city employee to a consultant. She told KXAN on Thursday that she’s “intimately involved” in this pilot program.

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