City of Austin releases 21-page audit on 2019-21 homeless spending

The City of Austin released a 21-page audit report on its homeless spending for the fiscal years of 2019 to 2021. The audit reveals the city’s spending for homelessness assistance aligns with its proposed budget.

The city budgeted $179 million for homelessness assistance from fiscal year 2019 to 2021 issuing 47 resolutions, ordinances, and other directions relevant to homelessness assistance.

There were 15 city departments in charge of spending that money according to the report. Austin Public Health, Housing and Planning Department, and Downtown Austin Community Court were responsible for managing most homelessness-related spending.

"We found that Austin Public Health’s spending on homelessness assistance generally aligns with Council direction and stated priorities," said in the audit. "However, there is no complete inventory of agreements and associated spending for the City’s homelessness assistance efforts, and we could not determine the number of these agreements due to limitations with available data."

The special audit report was requested by Council Members Mackenzie Kelly and Leslie Pool. Kelly gave FOX 7 the following statement on the audit:  

"I appreciate the time and effort put into by the City Auditor’s Office to provide a special request audit of the city’s spending on homelessness. I look forward to having future conversations with the Homeless Strategy Office on how to better track the city’s expenditures and agreements related to homelessness to ensure that those seeking the services receive the best possible outcome."

A City of Austin spokesperson also gave FOX 7 a statement: 

"We welcome the Auditor’s findings that the City’s investments to address the homelessness crisis align with Council direction and priorities, and that individual departments are committed to the City’s overall strategy to tackle this important issue. This year the City hired a Homeless Strategy Officer to coordinate the City’s efforts across multiple City departments to ensure a seamless approach and response, and that work continues. As part of this process we are working to identify options in our financial system that will denote all contracts that involve homelessness response so that we can comprehensively track our spending across all City departments."

However, the incomplete breakdown of the budget has left some people like Cleo Petricek, co-founder of Save Austin Now PAC, unsure about the report.

"We need transparency of these costs. The spending needs to be broken down between administrative costs and direct services for each agency and contracts. There needs to be clearly defined performance measures for each department as well as agencies," she said.

Read the full report here.  

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