Williamson County addresses growing homeless population

Austin and Travis County have been talking for years about how to solve their homeless crisis.

On Saturday, Williamson County had one of its very first community discussions on the issue.

"Because of the population of unhoused people in Austin, we see a lot coming into Round Rock," said Apryl Reavis, with the Williamson County Homeless Coalition.

Williamson County is beginning to see an increase in its homeless population.

"Everything else has gone crazy in inflation," said Terry Cook, county commissioner for precinct one. "It is very expensive to be poor."

In January 2023, the county recorded 88 homeless people.

"That's just a snapshot because really there's so many more," said Reavis.

In Leander, the need at a local food bank has increased since January by 40 percent.

To the east, in Georgetown, another program reported a 123 percent increase in food assistance.

"The social service agencies, which we have all the way across our county are seeing increasing numbers, and low-income and homeless individuals, and while we can't offer housing quite yet, we can absolutely help with food," said Cook.

Multiple social service agencies and nonprofits piled into the Williamson County Annex in Round Rock Saturday evening to start having conversations about the increase in need.

"The end goal is to bring awareness so that people understand that it is happening in Williamson County," said Reavis.


But the discussion couldn’t happen without someone who truly knows what it's like to experience homelessness.

"She drove me to Texas and left me at a gas station with $5 and drove away, and I didn't see her again for almost eleven years," said Maggie Ellis, the guest speaker.

From couch-surfing to strangers' homes to finally the gas station where Ellis says her mom left her. she's a reminder of why action needs to happen in Williamson County.

"Somebody who's experiencing homelessness, they're not throwing away," said Ellis. "They're people who've either experienced incredible poverty or substance abuse, mental health issues, and I think the biggest and greatest gift is to become involved, but also to see their humanity."

The county also asked for volunteers for another homeless population survey this January. It will include counting individuals and passing out food and essentials, like hygiene products.