Travis County allocates $110 million to house the homeless

Travis County Commissioners have voted to spend $110 million to fund homeless housing projects.

The money, from the American Recovery Plan Act, allocates $50 million for a Mobile Loaves and Fishes project to provide supportive housing for 700 people in Southeast Austin.

"So we're pretty excited about it. It's 76 acres at 7905 Burleson Road, just off Highway 183, backing up to Onion Creek, a beautiful piece of real estate. We're in the middle of the permit process right now with the City of Austin, Travis County," said Alan Graham, CEO and founder of Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

Another $50 million will fund supportive housing communities run by local nonprofits for 1,000 people in the county. $3 million will fund construction of 200 tiny homes at the state sanctioned homeless campground, now called the Esperanza Community.

"This will allow a couple of thousand deeply affordable units or homes to come into action and we so need that across Travis County," said Travis County Commissioner Ann Howard, precinct 3.

The funds are in addition to Austin City Council’s allocation of $100 million of American Recovery Plan Act money for supportive housing.

"The city and the county really working together in this one significant plan to drastically reduce homelessness, it's going to change so many people's lives," said Council member Greg Casar, district 4.

While spending $210 million collectively may not end homelessness in Travis County, there is a plan to address underlying issues that cause people to lose shelter to begin with.  

"We absolutely need to ramp up, and are trying to ramp up, the kinds of mental health care and rent stabilization that other cities have failed to do. As our city gets more and more expensive, we're going to see more and more homelessness unless we do something about the fact that our city is becoming so expensive, and we don't have some of the mental health programs and other kinds of care that we need," Casar said.

"We have a saying, within Mobile Loaves and Fishes, that housing alone will never solve homelessness, but community will… And so our model is built around that fundamental premise of bringing people home, into a community where people care for them," said Graham.

"We know these are one-time federal dollars and so by using them to bring about development, the actual apartments or tiny homes, that then allows others to bring their money to help expand access to healthcare and other supportive services, for job training. I mean, there’s a lot that we need to do, but this is a big piece of it. So, it’s great when we can step up and play our part," Howard said.

Casar said the city is working on a report detailing all the money that’s been spent on affordable housing and homeless services so far.

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