Prop B passes: What happens now to the homeless in downtown Austin?

The Monday after the Proposition B vote found Michelle Joseph doing what she does every Monday.

Joseph, with a group called Drive By Howdy, helped at an Austin homeless camp under I-35, providing food and basic hygiene supplies. "I’m here because they are still here," she said.

Joseph and the group she's with have been helping for almost a year now. For her, there's been way too much talk

"We don’t need more ideas, solutions, or committees, we need somebody taking an idea and saying I can implement this, if even on a small scale," said Joseph.

For some that something is getting programs mothballed by the COVID-19 pandemic back up and running.

"Yes, all the churches that were providing services, they're still not back at it. And I think the volunteers would be willing to come out and work again, I think we should move toward opening those day services back up," said Valerie Romness.


Romness is the editor of the Challenger newspaper, which is distributed by members of the homeless community. Moving beyond the Prop B headlines, according to Romness, requires a multi-tasking approach- which could include a campaign reuniting families.

"If it's 80% of our homeless are from here, that means they have families here, and I’m not saying, taking your homeless family member back into your house, that’s not going to work, but you could have them over for dinner, you could set boundaries and stay connected and have family healing," said Romness.

Expanding mental health programs is a common idea, but making them diverse is critical. Advocates also tell FOX7 that there needs to be an investment in prevention programs, not just for mental health, but things like renter's assistance programs. That could slow the number of evictions which increases the number of people on the streets.

"If you've been on the street 10 to 20 years, what you need is different from those out there for 6 months," said Romness.


Another example of this diverse problem is the youth and young adults on the streets. "So their needs experiencing homelessness are going to be different for a veteran experiencing homelessness," said Susan McDowell with Lifeworks.

The organization works with younger people and McDowell agrees there’s no shortage of ideas on how to help them.

"What’s next, is that the organizations supporting these pathways off the streets need to be brought up to scale. There are federal dollars that can be brought to bear... and they need to be invested and invested fast. And we also need landlords who will take individuals and families who are leaving homelessness," said McDowell.

Providing housing includes places like the Community First! Village, and Foundation Communities' affordable apartment conversions. However, other attempts have failed, like a plan to build "sprung shelters" around downtown, and met push back, like the city's plan to use a Candlewood Suites hotel. Protests continue because it’s located next to a northwest Austin neighborhood and several businesses.