There are fewer people experiencing homelessness on downtown Austin streets


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Downtown Austin Alliance says the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness decreased in that area by 55% since May.

The DAA says on Oct. 20, it counted about 365 people experiencing homelessness on the streets of the Downtown Public Improvement District. In May, its count revealed 813 people.

This map shows the Public Improvement District boundaries in which the Downtown Austin Alliance conducted its count of those experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
This map shows the Public Improvement District boundaries in which the Downtown Austin Alliance conducted its count of those experiencing unsheltered homelessness. (Source: Downtown Austin Alliance)

“I do feel like downtown has gotten a lot safer and a lot cleaner,” said Jon Oliver, a bartender at Cedar Street Courtyard on West 4th Street.

The alliance attributes the decline to the City of Austin’s HEAL Initiative, the reinstatement of the camping ban ordinance and the statewide camping ban, which went into effect in September.

The DAA says housing programs like Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Community First! Village are also helping. It’s where Kody Allen Wilson has been living since December.

It’s not only provided a home but an inspiration for his future. He wants to start selling his art and music to make money for the cause.

“Everything happened the way it was to come here and meet them and be a part of this and use all my talent… so that I can help be a part of the same mission, and that is ending homelessness in Austin first, and eventually all over the whole world.”

Wilson first found art and music as an escape from his violent childhood.

“I was praying for death from the Lord at a very, very, very young, young age,” he said. “When I’m drawing, you know, when I’m in that zone, lost in the sauce, I’m alive. I feel like the past isn’t controlling my future, I’m living in the now.”

As of Sept. 11, the DAA says according to Mobile Loaves and Fishes, 250 residents were living at the village who were previously homeless, and about a third had been living downtown.

The Downtown Austin Alliance says they are set to make their 5th annual installment toward a $2 million pledge over 10 years to Community First! Village. To date, they’ve contributed $800,000, and this payment would bring it to the $1 million mark.

But the alliance acknowledges it doesn’t have a way of tracking how many unsheltered people downtown have received housing or have moved to other, less visible areas of Austin between their counts in May and October.

“We’re also cautiously optimistic, knowing that possibly not everyone that has left the streets downtown has received housing or shelter,” said DAA vice president Bill Brice.

Brice calls for more housing and supportive services to help more people and says the DAA is also doing its part. He points to their partnership with Integral Care and the Downtown Austin Community Court for the Homelessness Health and Wellness Center.

The goal is to provide “housing-focused behavioral health care” to 100 people by the end of the year. The DAA says it currently has around 70 people enrolled.

The DAA also says it launched another partnership with Trinity Center earlier this month to help that agency reunite more people experiencing homelessness with their families. They say its goal is to reunify 100 people by April 2022, which the DAA says is an acceleration of the center’s current monthly average reunification number.

“We know there’s still tremendous need for more resources, more support, for more shelter services and especially permanent housing,” said Brice.

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