The City of Austin continues to make progress on providing a path to permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, and today relocated the final occupants of another encampment to safe shelter. Under the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) Initiative, the City will offer temporary shelter and a path to permanent housing to people living at four encampments in south central, east, downtown, and north west Austin by the end of the summer.
Just this week, 48 people have been moved from the second HEAL encampment site, a busy underpass at Ben White Boulevard and Menchaca Road, closing the site in south Austin. Those residents are now staying in the City-owned 75-bedroom Southbridge shelter. They join 20 people who moved to Southbridge from the Terrazas Library site - the first HEAL site – in June.
"This week shows what we can do as a community by working together to resolve unsafe encampments," said City of Austin Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey. "People experiencing homelessness are eager to move off the street when we're able to offer dignified shelter and real resources to get into housing."
Once stable housing is found for people staying in the shelters, their rooms will be available for other people coming in. At the same time, City staff are continuing to work with Austin City Council to explore the potential for City-owned properties to be used as one or more designated encampments.
The HEAL Initiative is being brought to fruition through a collaboration including community partners and multiple City of Austin entities, including the Homeless Strategy Division, the multidisciplinary Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST), Austin Resource Recovery, Parks and Recreation, and others. Community partners include Capital Metro, Family Eldercare, and Integral Care.
"Integral Care is proud to work with the City of Austin to proactively address the needs of our unhoused neighbors," said Integral Care's Practice Administrator of Housing and Health Care for the Homeless Initiatives Ruth Ahearn. "Through the HEAL Initiative, we are connecting people to transitional shelter as well as providing primary and mental health care, social services, and substance use services."
Austin City Council approved the HEAL initiative
in February as a site-based collaborative approach that can lead to the end of unsheltered homelessness through a collaborative approach to outreach and rehousing.
"We should all recognize the efforts of our city staff and partners in implementing the HEAL initiative, showing that it works and demonstrates we can do better for our neighbors in Austin," said Council Member Ann Kitchen, whose district includes the Ben White Boulevard and Menchaca Road area. "We can focus on the future together and accelerate our efforts to connect people to housing and services – through HEAL and other initiatives at more locations for more people throughout Austin."