Tuesday, February 13, 2024

City of Austin Making Significant Progress in Building Pathways to Exit Homelessness


Update presented to City Council highlights partnership between Homeless Strategy Office and Housing Department to create a continuum of support. 

City of Austin’s Homeless Strategy Office and the Housing Department presented an update on the expansion of City emergency shelter capacity as well as progress made toward new permanent supportive housing projects at Tuesday’s City Council work session.  

“We are moving full steam ahead in partnership together to build our entire system infrastructure,” said David Gray, Homeless Strategy Officer. “The fact of the matter is we don’t have the luxury of choosing if we want to go all in on more shelters or more housing – we need both. And I’m really proud of the fact that we’re making strides in closing the gaps in our system.” 

According to Gray, 3,324 clients used shelter services in Fiscal Year 2023 – a record-breaking number. The presentation also revealed that Austin is outperforming every other U.S. city in the percentage of clients successfully exiting shelters, with 60% leaving for rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, reunification with family members or other positive resolutions. 

While currently only 3% are leaving shelters for permanent supportive housing, City leaders anticipate that number will eventually increase with new units expected to be available soon and more in the pipeline. Permanent supportive housing includes not just a home but wrap-around services including access to mental health care and case management. The number of permanent supportive housing units is expected to grow by 630% between now and 2026 with more than 1,000 new units. 

“Austin’s homeless response system outperforms the national average for major cities, and we expect a 300% growth in permanent supportive housing this calendar year,” said James May, the City’s Housing and Community Development Officer. “And that number should continue to go up as we approve more loans and more financing for additional developments over the next several years through 2026.” 

The City’s Homeless Strategy Office and Housing Department’s next steps towards building pathways to exit homelessness include:  

  • Transitioning day-to-day site operations of BRIDGE shelters in March. 
  • Exploring additional shelter opportunities to close gaps.  
  • Releasing solicitation for landlord incentives in Spring/Summer 2024.  
  • Providing ongoing support for Permanent Supportive Housing and Continuum of Care developments through Rental Housing Development Assistance. 
  • Monitoring Local Housing Voucher program for improvements. 
  • Identifying new partnerships for Permanent Supportive Housing developments, such as Espero Rutland

Interim City Manager Jesús Garza said the cross-departmental collaboration is emblematic of how government should work to solve society’s most challenging issues.  

“This is a great example of what it means to be 'City first' when it comes to addressing critical needs within our community,” Garza said. “And I think that’s the kind of collaboration that we need to be doing in this organization to continue to succeed.” 

To learn more about resources for those experiencing homelessness in Austin, please visit www.austintexas.gov/homelessness.