‘We have much more to do’: Homeless strategy team presents spending update to Austin City Council

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Homeless Strategy Division presented an update on homelessness spending to the City Council on Thursday. Back in April, a coalition of homeless advocates and city leaders set a goal to house 3,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in three years.

The latest report, posted online and presented Thursday, reveals more on the current funding gap. It calls for a total of $515 million over three years, with about $115 million still needed. It calls for 1,300 units of housing investment over the second and third years.

Among the sources of the nearly $400 million already committed and anticipated funds are the City of Austin ($210 million; 52%), State of Texas ($92 million; 23%), Travis County ($57 million; 14%), Austin Housing Authority ($22 million; 6%), private donors ($16 million; 4%) and homeless service providers ($4 million; 1%). It should be noted more than half of the city’s contribution comes from federal stimulus funds.

A more specific breakdown can be found here.

In a press conference Thursday morning, summit leaders pitched to the private sector to fill the funding gap.

“We have much more to do,” said Lynn Meredith, chair of the summit. “We will need a significant investment from the business community, from private foundations, from philanthropists, and from the rest of our citizens.”

“I want you all to consider partnering with us to make this once-in-a-lifetime investment,” echoed Leo Ramirez, summit volunteer and local business person.

Until then, local groups like We Can Now say they’ll be taking care of immediate needs.

“While we get to have these meetings and go home and wait ’til the next meeting next week, these people are out there experiencing it every single day,” says founder Anthony Jackson.

He doesn’t want council members to forget their funding– they provide food, water, hygiene products and clothing to people experiencing homelessness every Sunday.

Jackson says it’s gotten harder to reach the population since Proposition B enforcement.

“It’s left them to go into the woods, migrate into the woods,” says Jackson, who is optimistic about the city’s three-year plan.

KXAN asked some summit leaders if, next year or the year after, they could find themselves in this same position: asking for more donations.

They say capital expenditures, like building costs, are already included in their current numbers, but they acknowledge there will be ongoing costs.

And if the community doesn’t end up reaching its $515 million goal?

“Like any budget, if there’s slightly less income, then we adjust our expectations,” said Austin Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey. “I think we’ve got enough funds dedicated to this effort that we can start scaling up these programs.”

A breakdown of the numbers

Assuming the community reaches its full fundraising goal of $515 million, the Summit plan calls for more than half that total – $266 million – to be spent building up the city’s affordable housing capacity. That would be the aforementioned 1300 housing units.

Grey says this is hardly an investment the city will have to make every three years.

[$266 million] in affordable housing units will serve this community for 30 or 40 years,” she said.

A breakdown of the Homelessness Summit plan calls for more than half the $515 million to be spent building up the city’s affordable housing capacity (Source: City of Austin).

It’s not the only factor Grey and other top city officials believe will drive future homelessness budgets down.

She tells us there is a lot of unmet need to be dealt with over the next three years. After that, she says the city should start to get an idea how much it will take to sustain the city’s homelessness system annually.

“Once we get through the big backlog of work, then we can think about what it takes to really sustain the system,” said Grey. “We don’t anticipate having to keep the level of services where it needs to be over the next three years.”

Added Austin Mayor Steve Adler: “The communities that have set up a system are spending a lot less per capita every year to sustain their systems.”

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