Shelters 48 People from Parks
The City of Austin and partners helped a total of 48 individuals move from encampments to temporary bridge shelters, as part of the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) Initiative.
HEAL carries out closures of homeless encampments that pose the highest public health and safety risks. Through the HEAL initiative, 45 individuals moved from an encampment at Gustavo “Gus” L. Garcia District Park and 3 individuals moved from an encampment at the nearby Asian American Resource Center property.
People experiencing homelessness on site were offered transfer to shelter, and connection to housing resources. Through a cross-departmental effort, the City has developed a mobile encampment assessment tool that measures over 40 factors to prioritize encampments for HEAL intervention.
“The HEAL Initiative is just one part of the City’s response to homelessness, but it’s a critical strategy to compassionately move people from encampments into shelter, with a clear path to housing and services. Utilizing our encampment assessment tool, HEAL continues to focus on assisting those experiencing homelessness in our community.” said City of Austin Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey.
Successful sheltering and resolution of the Gus Garcia Recreation District Park encampment was a collaborative effort.
"PARD proudly supports the HEAL initiative's progress on City parkland,” said Kimberly McNeeley, Austin Parks and Recreation Department Director. “With many encampments on park property, programs like HEAL are essential to providing housing for persons experiencing homelessness. Through these programs, individuals can gain a foothold towards housing while returning City parkland to public use. It's crucial that HEAL, and programs like it, continue so all City parkland can be restored to its natural state."
These encampments in Districts 1 and 4 are the first to be served by the HEAL Initiative this fiscal year, which began October 1, 2022. Since HEAL began in June of 2021, 409 individuals have voluntarily moved from high-risk encampments to Southbridge and Northbridge shelters.
Both encampments are now officially closed, and enforcement presence will be maintained while cleanup is conducted. The significant restoration of public amenity access follows the closure of encampments at the Krieg Softball Complex and the Roy Guerrero Park Disc Golf Course encampment this summer, in which 92 individuals accessed the City's bridge shelters. Cleanup has concluded at the Roy Guerrero Disc Golf Course, and the course is currently undergoing improvements and expansion.
The Austin Public Health Department and the Homeless Strategy Division worked closely with the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST), Parks and Recreation Department, Integral Care, Austin Police Department, Austin Resource Recovery, Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center, Urban Alchemy, the Austin Area Urban League, and other community partners.
Austin City Council approved the HEAL Initiative in February 2021. The HEAL Initiative is one element of Finding Home ATX, a community-wide effort to dramatically reduce unsheltered homelessness in Austin.
To learn more about homelessness in Austin, please visit www.austintexas.gov/homelessness