AUSTIN (KXAN) — Efforts continue to get people off the streets and into housing, but is it working?
For the last six months, Jamie Hammonds has made it a mission to document where homeless encampments are popping up in Austin. He started a group called Documenting Austin’s Streets and Homeless (DASH).
While DASH is not affiliated with the City of Austin, Hammonds hopes to raise awareness about what he sees on his outings.
“Raising awareness is a big part of trying to get these folks some help,” he said.
Hammonds has mapped out dozens of encampments and he is hoping to see the city do more to help people who are experiencing homelessness in the future.
“I think with what they have to work with right now they are trying to get people off the streets,” Hammonds said. “I don’t think they are doing a great job at it.”
Dianna Gray, Austin’s Homeless Strategy officer, said there are approximately 4,600 people experiencing homelessness in Austin. She said there are about 1,000 who are in shelters and about 3,600 who are unsheltered. Gray said the city is making progress in its fight to end homelessness.
“When our staff goes into an encampment and are able to offer people access to shelter, thus far 87% say yes when there is a linkage to permanent housing,” Gray said.
She said one challenge is the number of available housing units, but hopes to have more options in the coming years.
Non-profit organizations are also playing a role in helping the homeless, and the city works with about 40.
“20 organizations that we have service contracts with and another 20 or so that we are really working on to develop and get them to a place of growth,” said Gray.
Antony Jackson with We Can Now has been working to connect the homeless population with resources over the last few years.
Jackson said the relationships with other non-profits and the city are key to future success stories.
“There are other organizations that may offer different services, so if you partner with them or connect with them that means you are able to offer more,” Jackson said.
We Can Now has recently placed a few families into housing, but there are challenges. Jackson said some of the people he works with end up back on the streets after receiving housing.
Substance abuse and mental health are a few of the reasons why they aren’t staying in housing, Jackson said.
“That is why it is important to have a street team that is out there on the streets for when they do come back,” Jackson said. “You still have eyes on them and can offer them resources.”
Jackson said there is a lot of work to do, but if the relationships continue between other non-profits and the city, he said a lot of progress will be made.