AUSTIN (KXAN) — Work is set to begin at the site of what’s to become a community aimed at helping homeless Austinites transition off the street. The state-sanctioned site will be located at 780 State Highway 183 in south Austin.
The Esperanza Community complex will be developed by The Other Ones Foundation (TOOF), a nonprofit that works to give low-barrier work opportunities, case management and aid to the local homeless population. The facility will be able to temporarily house around over 200 people at a time, TOOF says. It will cost $5.4 million to build and run for one year, Max Moscoe with TOOF said.
When it’s finished, TOOF says Esperanza will offer bathrooms/showers, food access, laundry facilities and mental and physical health resources.
TOOF’s employment opportunities for residents include homeless campsite clean up. The foundation reports it’s helped move 1 million pounds of trash out of green spaces in Austin since it began in 2018.
The only requirements for employment with TOOF are being at least 18 years old and currently experiencing homelessness.
There are already more than 100 people who live in the Esperanza Community, many of them in tents. The new development is only designed to be transitional, with the goal of getting all of these residents into more permanent housing.
For now, it’s the place Jay Navarro plans on calling home. It’s also where he’s found a community that’s helped him get clean.
He’s been working on the Esperanza homeless community site created in the name of hope. It’s made him feel like his life is getting back on track.
“I’ve got it made, I’m not going to lie, I’ve got it made,” Navarro said.
TOOF is hoping with its new project it’ll be able to help more people like Navarro.
“We’re offering wrap-around services that include case management, housing navigation… hygiene and food access,” Moscoe said.
Those who already stay here will get first dibs on the new shelters. But there’s no time frame set for how long they can stay, and there’s not a specific measurement for success yet.
“We’re writing the playbook while we’re doing this,” Moscoe said. “The point of moving people into these shelters is so they can get the traction they need to succeed through this program, and then move off-site into stable housing.”
Travis County is investing $3 million but didn’t sign off without asking some serious questions.
“You know, what were they going to build? How many were they going to build? Who was it going to serve? What services are going to be provided?” Precinct 4 Travis County Commissioner Margaret Gomez said. “Because we too, know that we’ll be held accountable.”
Navarro trusts the process, feeling like sooner rather than later he’ll be off-site on his own.
“I could see myself reaching out to The Other Ones Foundation, supporting them,” Navarro said.
Come February 2022, 100 units are expected to be complete. According to Moscoe, the site will be fully operational with all 200 units by the end of 2022. Still, the foundation still needs to raise the last $1.6 million. It’s partnering with the Texas Department of Transportation, which owns this site, and they have a list of investors.