It has been almost two months since the Austin Police Department and the Downtown Alliance launched their "Homeless Outreach Street Team Operation." The nearly four month long trial program aims to reduce homelessness. According to officials, so far, the response has been positive.
Within the last year, Austin's homeless population increased by twenty percent.
Officials started the program June 1st.
“The whole intent is to really avoid those arrests, avoid those tickets and try to intervene and build relationships,” Kathie Tovo, Austin City Council District 9, said.
City council member Kathie Tovo represents District 9, which represents the majority of Austin's homeless population. She says the initiative is a way to prevent bad situations before they happen.
“For example having a paramedic on the team allows the host team to spot medical conditions that might end up in an emergency room visit,” Tovo said.
“Six people working at any given time, two police officers, two mental health workers, case worker, and a paramedic,” Bill Brice, vice president of operations at DAA, said describing the H.O.S.T. team.
The alliance supplies the one social worker. They got this approach from Houston, after hearing of that city's success rate. They want to be proactive, and build relationships while doing it. It's opposite of the reactive approach, tackling a problem after it happens, such as making a lot of arrests. So far they've gotten good responses.
“People on the street have a tendency with a team approach to open up in ways they wouldn’t if they were approached just by a police officer or social worker,” Brice said.
Just within the last month they say they've helped 235 people, 38 are enrolled in coordinated assessment
“That's the funnel for people to be in cue for housing,” Brice said.
The program trial will run until September 30th, afterward council will decide if the study needs to continue.
This program is costing no extra money for taxpayers, all agencies are using their existing budgets.The only added cost is a leased car used for transporting the homeless if needed.