AUSTIN, Texas - The City of Austin has launched a program that would provide storage to people experiencing homelessness. The program would help people navigate the challenges of homelessness without the burden of carrying all of their possessions with them.
Access to storage will help people who live unsheltered attend service provider appointments, doctor’s appointments, pursue employment, and get some rest without worrying about the safety of their most treasured possessions, according to a press release from the City of Austin.
"This is important for anyone going to a job or job interview but who may not want to show up with a shopping cart or a rucksack or backpack full of their personal effects," said Assistant City Manager Chris Shorter. "This is a major step forward for our support system in response to our homeless population. And it's just a first step. Our plan is to add additional sites and carts across the city. We are expanding citywide and will be able to serve hundreds more."
The Violet KeepSafe Storage is located in the HealthSouth parking garage in downtown Austin.
The new facility is opening with a referral system, assigning 96-gallon violet bins to those referred by the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) or the Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC). Austin is currently making 85 bins available but hopes to expand the program with up to 200 additional carts, and decentralized locations, which will allow more organizations to refer clients to participate.
“This operation is all about investing in the health and dignity of our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Ken Snipes, Director, Austin Resource Recovery said. “As I saw working with folks in Seattle and was confirmed here by the Austin Homelessness Advisory Council, offering a storage bin and a lock does more than alleviate physical burden or fear of theft. This service builds trust and lines of communication between our institutions and the people who rely on them to build a better life.”
City officials will work towards employing more people with lived experience of homelessness to staff future facilities, according to a press release from the City of Austin.
“Having safe, accessible storage makes it possible for our clients to hold onto meaningful items, often received as donations, like full-sized blankets, without carrying around that bulk and weight year-round. It’s also a place to store clothes and work boots for when they find work in kitchens or construction,” Amy Price, Director of Development and Communications at Front Steps said. “Not only does it reduce the physical strain of carrying every belonging in bags, but it helps individuals avoid the stares or other negative reactions from people who immediately recognize someone as homeless when they are carrying all of their possessions with them.”