Austin launches summit to develop homelessness strategy

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin, in collaboration with nonprofit organizations, philanthropists, and community advocates, launched a summit Tuesday to develop a comprehensive implementation strategy to address homelessness.

Lyric Wardlow, who works in partnership with a wide variety of organizations who work to end homelessness in the nation for youth and adults, is sharing her lived experience of homelessness at the summit to help form new programs, policies and legislation that will further support people who are homeless.

“The community is not going to continue ignoring this situation, the people experiencing homelessness aren’t going to continue allowing things not to work and not to happen,” Wardlow said.

The multi-part summit will last through March to discuss six prioritized housing and services activities: prevention, crisis beds, permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing, street management and encampment response.

Work plans developed by the groups will include action items with 30-, 60- and 90-day targets over an 18-month period as well as annual benchmarks to measure successful strategy implementation.

“We’re coming together to forge a new path to combat homelessness — one that doesn’t force our homeless population into unsafe places or to fend for themselves,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement. “We have experts and advocates together to develop a holistic strategy and long-term solution to address the needs of Austin. There is nothing we cannot accomplish together.”

In January, Adler told KXAN Austin’s approach to homelessness is “not good enough and is not working the way it needs to.” Results from the summit will eventually be shared with the public.

The summit began nearly one month before the May 1 special election in which voters will decide whether to reinstate the city’s public camping ban. Legislation has been filed with the Texas Legislature to enact a statewide ban, too.

Save Austin Now PAC led the effort to get the camping ban proposition on the ballot in Austin.

“We all want to see real and effective solutions to homelessness in our city, but it’s impossible to begin that process while the disastrous camping ordinance is in effect,” said Matt Mackowiak, co-founder of Save Austin Now PAC. “We must reinstate the public camping ban on May 1st. In the meantime, it would be useful for city officials to soberly and fully account for the policy mistakes they’ve made in recent years before spending tens of millions of dollars more on a failed approach.”

Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, Downtown Austin Alliance, the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Justice Coalition, Homes Not Handcuffs and Notley’s HomeFront Fund are all participating in the summit. ECHO will lead the implementation of the strategy that emerges from the summit.

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