City: Enough homeless services, but too many people


AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin is home to more than 2,000 people who are considered homeless. During the 2017 homeless count conducted by 500 volunteers, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition reports it found 2,036 were homeless. That number has remained the same over the past 10 years.

That’s why in February 2017, the Austin City Council tasked ECHO with conducting a year-long study to determine what needs to be done to end homelessness in the city. Fifty organization and those experiencing homelessness provided feedback. Five key takeaways were determined: more outreach; an increase in shelter, housing and support services; determining the disparities in data; effective collaboration; and more community engagement.

In order to do that, ECHO is proposing to double its current funding from local, state and federal entities from $30 million per year to $60 million.

“The programs and services will require us to work together to identify some additional funding and it won’t be able to come just from the city of Austin. We are going to have to look to other partners out there in the community as well as individual support,” says Kathie Tovo, Austin Mayor Pro Tem.

Ann Howard, the Executive Director of ECHO, says the current programs are seeing huge success rates with 93-percent of clients who get a home not returning to homelessness. But the folks who run these programs are swamped, and that’s why more funding is needed.

“Their caseloads are full, so we are getting fewer people off the street and into programs because the programs are already helping at capacity and that’s why we know we need to scale up what is working and let go of what doesn’t work.”

Non-profits are also hopeful the new CodeNEXT plan will bring more affordable housing built near transportation. Tuesday, city council will hear details of ECHO’s plan and could bring a resolution Thursday during its regular meeting to make this the official plan the city uses to end homelessness.

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