Tuesday, September 13, 2022

HEAL Initiative: 92 Unsheltered Austinites on the Path to Housing

The City of Austin and partners have helped 92 individuals move from an encampment in Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park in Austin to the City-owned Northbridge and Southbridge shelters as part of the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) initiative. 
 
HEAL carries out closures of homeless encampments that pose the highest public health and safety risks. Occupants are offered transfer to shelter, and connection to concrete housing resources. Through a cross-departmental effort, the City has developed a mobile encampment assessment tool that measures over 40 factors to prioritize encampments for HEAL intervention. 
 
The HEAL Initiative isn’t just about ‘moving’ people, it’s setting them on a clear path to housing, opportunity, and help. With the recent work at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park, the City has exceeded its goal of relocating 200 people from encampments to shelter this year," said City of Austin Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey.  
 
So far, this fiscal year 218 people have entered the HEAL program; since inception, a total of 362 individuals have voluntarily moved from high-risk encampments to Southbridge and Northbridge shelters. 
 
Encampments at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park were prioritized for HEAL earlier this year, with planning and preparation spanning much of the spring. Outreach teams and staff of multiple City departments assisted moves to shelter as rooms became available. The successful relocation of individuals to bridge shelters, along with subsequent clean-up, is a coordinated effort. The Homeless Strategy Division worked closely with the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST), Downtown Austin Community Court, Integral Care, We Can Now, Sunrise Navigation Center, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Resource Recovery, and Austin Police Department.  
 
Clean-up efforts are expected to continue for several weeks to fully remove debris within the park. Improvements to previously inhabited areas of the park are already underway. A new disc golf course will greet patrons upon project completion, and upcoming restoration of the Country Club Creek channel will include the construction of a new pedestrian bridge that reconnects the east and west sides of the park. 
 
Austin City Council approved the HEAL Initiative in February 2021. The HEAL Initiative is one element of Finding Home ATX, a community-wide effort to dramatically reduce unsheltered homelessness in Austin.

To learn more about homelessness in Austin, please visit www.austintexas.gov/homelessness

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