Austin leaders hold homelessness summit to give update on progress

On Thursday morning, the City of Austin's Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey, along with a coalition of advocates gave updates on getting the homeless housed. 

It's all part of the city's plan to get three thousand housed in three years with some money coming from the American Rescue Plan Act.

"Our elected officials at the city and county have engaged in a dialogue with our coalition and many members of the community and heard clearly how these ARPA funds could be deployed," said Lynn Meredith, chairperson of the city’s homelessness summit.

The coalition announced they have reached 78 percent of their $515 million funding goal to make this happen. "We need to build additional capacity, we have to have a lens of equity and we have to build out a more robust homeless response system," said Meredith.

In Thursday's council meeting, the homeless strategy officer dissected where all this money will be going. It will be dedicated to crisis services, core housing programs, mental and substance abuse treatment and employment services just to name a few.

"The fundamental issue in our community is not that our investments have not produced the results we want for people served, it is that we have not come to scale," said Grey.

This plan all stemmed from a spring summit between a number of organizations and advocates. Some critics like Joell McNew are a bit skeptical about the plan.

"Austin has said they were going to end homelessness in 2019, they’ve made it clear that that’s why they were going to repeal ordinances because they had a plan, when in fact we learned they did not have a plan," she said.

The City has taken action clearing four major encampments under the HEAL initiative, but Proposition B is doing the rest of the work. "Because of Prop B I believe they did work on other encampments," said McNew.

Housing 3,000 people in three years is the ultimate goal, but McNew wonders what the city is planning to do, right now, especially with outreach.

"When we asked about where is the outreach, Ms. Grey said they just don’t have the bandwith to get out. Is there going to be an extension of the HEAL initiative?" said McNew.

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