AUSTIN (KXAN) — Eight months ago, Jason Fleischman was on his death bed.
A cycle of hospitalizations had worn down the 46-year-old who had been living beneath U.S. Route 183 in North Austin.
“I’ve done a lot of this damage to myself but, you know, I’m trying to recover,” Fleischman told KXAN.
As part of his recovery, Fleischman was brought to the former Country Inn & Suites. Originally purchased by the City of Austin for permanent supportive housing, the building has been used as a protective lodge to house high-risk individuals experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
While the protective lodges and permanent supportive housing facilities serve different purposes, the use of motels to house individuals experiencing homelessness during the pandemic provides an early test to the city’s motel conversion strategy.
Here, residents have access to on-site physical and mental health care.
Fleischman now works part-time and signed a lease for his own apartment on Tuesday.
“I won. I didn’t lay down and decide to die. I decided to get up and quest for more life,” he said. “If you really want help. Help is there. You gotta do the leg work.”
Austin City Council will vote on Thursday to purchase a fourth hotel for permanent supportive housing, the Candlewood Suites in northwest Austin, which has been met with protests from area homeowners and business owners questioning the cost and location.
If approved, the city would spend $9.5 million to add 80 units to its supply. The council approved the purchase of the Texas Bungalows & Suites last week for $6.7 million to add 65 units.
The three hotels already purchased for the city’s motel conversion strategy cost about $100,000 per unit upfront. But a city-commissioned study found the cost on society of a frequently homeless individual matches that each year.
The city estimates the Candlewood Suites and Texas Bungalows & Suites would cost $25,000 per unit annually to maintain and operate services as permanent supportive housing facilities.
“While you see that sticker shock, if you can see the other side of it… we’re spending on hospital care and readmissions and a workforce that can’t be utilized,” said Dr. Audrey Kuang, who visits the protective lodges weekly with her CommUnityCare Healthcare for the Homeless team. “This is huge and the impact that we’re seeing in such a short amount of time is unparalleled to anything I’ve seen.”