Twenty three people camping at the underpass at Highway 183 and Oak Knoll Boulevard accepted the City of Austin’s offer of temporary shelter today, the first step in their journey to stable housing and a better quality of life.
The north Austin encampment marks the fourth and final location for Phase I of the Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) initiative. Since June, 143 people experiencing homelessness in Austin have relocated to temporary shelter to begin the process of securing permanent housing.
Individuals from the North Austin site moved to the Southbridge shelter in South Austin and the Northbridge shelter in North Austin. Once settled, guests will be enrolled in a rapid rehousing program which provides them with temporary rental assistance and the support of a case manager as they work to secure permanent housing.
“The HEAL Initiative opens an important door for people who have been living unsheltered for far too long,” said Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey. “To move from an encampment to a secure, private room has an immediate and dramatic impact on their health and safety, and their ability to focus on their next steps.”
Austin City Council approved the HEAL initiative in February as a collaborative approach to reduce the number of unsheltered individuals by targeting specific encampment sites with the goal of eliminating the necessity of living unsheltered in Austin.
For Fiscal Year2022, City Council budgeted $6 million to house another 200 individuals for Phase Two of the HEAL initiative. The Homeless Strategy Division will be working with partners to identify the next several priority encampments based on health and safety. The goal is to begin work on Phase Two HEAL sites this fall.
“What we are learning from these first few months of work will strengthen our overall response and effectiveness going forward,” Grey said.
In addition to the Homeless Strategy Division, HEAL involves multiple City of Austin entities, including the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST), Austin Resource Recovery, Parks and Recreation, and others. HEAL’s community-based service provider partners include Family Eldercare, Integral Care, and Front Steps.