Austin's action plan to end homelessness asks city to double $30 million budget

A year-long study into Austin’s homelessness problem finds that the city should scale up the effort. (CBS Austin)

A year-long study into Austin’s homelessness problem finds that the city should scale up the effort.

Tuesday Ann Howard, executive director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), presented the action plan during the city council work session.

Howard said the cost to fix it would double the current $30 million budget, but adds the city is already spending millions to keep homeless people on the street.

“Lots of folks are cycling through, calling EMS going to the ER, going to the hospital, getting picked up and arrested and spending nights in jail. This cycling in our emergency services costs millions of dollars," Howard said.

Currently, Howard said ECHO operates on about $30 million in public funds, but Tuesday she told city council they need $60 million.

“If we project the capacity in the community plus the ongoing need -- then we need to double that amount of funding in order to right size the situation,” Howard said.

The employees at Live Oak Market in South Austin have become familiar with the growing homeless population.

“They cause a lot of problems here, basically always trying to hang out front and beg customers for money,” Zach Telford said.

Telford said more transients have gravitated to the area of Ben White Blvd. and Manchaca Rd. because the Sunrise Church next door offers them services.

“They have a lot of resources willing to help them, but most of them just use it as a kind of hang out spot, not so much to use the resources or get help they need,” Telford said.

Telford said he’s unsure that throwing more money at the problem will help.

“Most of them I don't think they really want that help. They just want to hang out and get food for that day. A lot of them congregate because they meet up and get drugs and it's just a hangout spot,” Telford said.

But Howard says their Permanent Supportive Housing program has a 93 percent success rate and they just need to scale it up.

“That's what the community needs to understand. Right now, a lot of people they see on the street have done everything we asked them to do, they're just waiting until it's their turn to get the help,” Howard said.

The action plan also includes a proposal to transform the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) downtown.

Advocates hope the city agrees to add additional smaller shelters across the city to reduce overcrowding at the ARCH.

The action plan will now go to city council for a vote at the next meeting

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