Memo highlights how Austin is addressing homelessness during pandemic

Austin

People resting under US 183 in Austin. (KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard).

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin released a memo this week with several strategies and resources it has been using to address homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The memo targeted nine specific areas to assist the homeless population including COVID-19 emergency response facilities, allocation of CARES funding, food access and public space management.

The City has one isolation facility and five protective, temporary facilities for individuals who are at high risk for COVID-19 complications. The memo says the isolation facility has capacity for 204 guests while the five protective facilities, designated for specific districts within the city, can hold an estimated 300 total guests.

The Eating Apart Together (EAT) Initiative has provided more than 450,000 meals to people
experiencing homelessness during the response to COVID-19, with contracts to continue through
the fall, according to the memo. The initiative has continued to provide food, water,
face coverings, toilet paper, COVID-19 information, hygiene supplies and pet food to people
experiencing unsheltered homelessness as an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020.

For the first weeks of the pandemic, the Community Health Paramedics (CHP) team visited over 60 homeless camps to assess immediate needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. The feedback from these efforts supported allowed the city to provide restrooms, hand washing stations and sanitation services at those camps. The CHP was also able to deliver food and water to those camps with help from local donations before the EAR program was up and running, the memo says.

The City is also encouraging people experiencing homelessness to keep the community clean with its Clean City Strategy. The city uses several programs for community clean-up, including the Violet Bag Program, the Violet KeepSafe Storage Program, Public Space Cleaning Service Program and Grounds Restoration Program, according to the memo.

The goal of the strategy is to:

  • Facilitate clean and hygienic living
  • Prevent dangerous conditions for residents, drivers and neighbors
  • Maintain the environmental quality of our ecosystem
  • Provide access points to the resources and services available for supporting homeless individuals

As for homelessness prevention, the City recently launched its second wave of the RENT program. The program provides rental support for Austin residents with extremely low incomes who may be at risk of eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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