City of Austin shelters 15 people, begins phase two of HEAL Initiative

The City of Austin launched phase two of the H.E.A.L Initiative on Tuesday.

It stands for Housing-focused Encampment Assistance Link. 

The announcement came after they completed phase one recently. "We completed four encampment resolutions over the course of the summer in phase one," said Dianna Grey, City of Austin homeless strategy officer.

On Tuesday, the city and its partners helped fifteen people in a high-flood, fire-risk area of South Austin, move into a city-owned bridge shelter. This was the first identified encampment in phase two.

"There are over 40 criteria that our teams look at…fire and flood risk, the health condition of the occupants of the encampments, access to hygiene resources," said Grey.

The city's homeless strategy officer said they were able to get 143 people into bridge shelters in phase one. They are hoping to get at least 200 housed in phase two. 

Some of the people in phase one have even moved into permanent housing. "We have two bridge shelters the city owns that are both converted hotels. Folks are able to move into that hotel. They are able to bring pets or to share a room with a partner," said Grey.

Heal is not the same as Proposition B enforcement. Back in May, the city reinstated the camping ban. But that enforcement doesn't connect campers with housing and resources like H.E.A.L. does, it simply makes them move, something not all council members agree with.

Grey said the city has allocated millions of dollars to house the homeless, and they are only at the beginning of phase two. Other encampments will be identified in the near future.

"We really believe housing is fundamental to everyone’s well-being. No one should live on the street, it’s not safe for anyone. We are looking at a $500 million investment over thee years, we’ve identified about $400 million of those resources," said Grey.

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