AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the City of Austin works to house people experiencing homelessness and help them transition to more permanent supportive housing, the Austin Area Urban League is continuing its efforts to do the same, but in a new way.
The organization is taking over operations for the city’s Southbridge shelter, which was once run by Front Steps. Southbridge has about 75 rooms for people living on the streets, or living in encampments.
Austin Area Urban League President and CEO Mr. Quincy Dunlap joined KXAN to provide some insight on the new leadership. It’s the first time we’ve heard from them about the transition.
What does this contract really entail for the Urban League and for people experiencing homelessness?
Dunlap: It entails an opportunity for the Austin Area Urban League to provide, or continue to provide, a level of excellence and service to our homeless brothers and sisters, and provide the actual opportunity to come into safe, energy-efficient housing, either in a rapid or emergency scenario with some wraparound supportive services to help change the trajectory and improve quality of life for those brothers and sisters through the continuum of care, a coordinated entry system for the homeless response system.
How will the Urban League staff the facility?
Dunlap: There’ll be some combination of retention of current staff based on an independent HR assessment, and the acquisition of some new talent to bring in excellence and skill sets where there may be gaps. So that brothers and sisters can have the best opportunity for improved quality of life from the services the Urban League can buy for the shelter.
We’ve seen a lot of challenges just in the fight against homelessness in our community; what challenges do you all anticipate, whether it be funding or other resources?
Dunlap: I think the challenge is understanding how to connect all of the different options available to serve, and a comprehensive solution that is end to end. A shelter is but one point of entry for a brother or sister that lives in unhoused, or homeless status. So we have to be short-term mid-term, and long-term solution oriented over a number of years to engage our brothers and sisters with lived experience, have them help inform, but also offer feasible solutions for where they want to end up concerning their quality of life. And that includes trauma-informed services. That includes substance use and substance abuse services. That includes workforce and career development support. That includes entrepreneurship, training, anything education, post-secondary Success Services, basic education skills attainment. We have to think holistically about what our brothers and sisters want and need from the system. So there has to be a great balance between what we can provide and what their desire is for a service, and we need to listen, but also be available to be coached by them, given the experiences they’ve had with the system and the current status that they live in.
Are people in there now? And how long will they be able to stay in there? Is there a time limit?
Dunlap: I don’t think there is a time limit, but that is to be determined based on the flexibility in the guidelines that we that we operate the center under for the city. Again, we have to go in and do an assessment from top to bottom of everything that involves operating this shelter to be able to serve brothers and sisters at a high level, right. So it’s just not we make a run of the mill decision because we just got the contract. There is a process that we’ll go through to transition in and make sure we reduce harm, right, and that we also serve at a high level given the variables that we as an entity bring to the table and that our brothers and sisters have with them, given their current status of homelessness or being unhoused.