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Health and Human Services Subcommittee approves affordable housing proposal

Thursday, January 21, 2010 by Austin Monitor

On Jan. 28, the Homeless Housing and Services Program (HHSP) will make recommendations to City Council on how to spend the nearly $2 million the city has been allocated by the State Legislature to combat homelessness. On Tuesday, Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Director David Lurie and Community Based Resources Manager Susan Gehring went before the Public Health and Human Services Subcommittee to garner support for those recommendations. 


Last year the State Legislature approved $20 million for this biennium to help eight Texas cities prevent or eliminate homelessness. Austin’s allocation for the period beginning December 1, 2009, and ending Aug. 31, 2011, is $1.9 million. Minus the approximately $330,000 City Council approved last fall to “increase capacity for daytime gathering and sleeping at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless,” Lurie told the committee, the City has $1,670,498 to allocate to social service agencies. 


On Nov. 13 the HSSP released a Request for Application (RFA) from interested agencies, with a deadline set for Dec. 3. Ten agencies responded, with nine meeting the threshold requirements. In the end, Gehring told the committee, a review panel made up of staff from HHSD, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, and Travis County Research and Planning chose five agencies to recommend.


Gehring said the services provided by these agencies with the HHSP funds will include permanent supportive housing and comprehensive services such as financial assistance and services to transition individuals and families to safe and stable housing. She called the 46 new permanent supportive housing units that will be made available “a fairly significant accomplishment with these funds”


The five agencies staff recommended to receive funds are:


LifeWorks, partnering with Capital IDEA – $408,300 for eight new permanent supportive housing units with intensive case management, mental health counseling, and job training for 18-24-year-olds who have aged out of the foster care system.


Foundation Communities, partnering with Family Eldercare and Workforce Solutions – $449,698 for 10 new permanent supportive housing units for the Children’s Home Initiative and support services for single adult men at three complexes. New employment services for families and support for approximately 450 single individuals.


VinCare Services of Austin, partnering with Goodwill of Austin – $400,000 for 18 new permanent supportive housing units for single homeless women with children and employment services and comprehensive services for 75 individuals.


Caritas of Austin, partnering with the Crime Prevention Institute, Goodwill, and the San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation – $312,470 for 10 new permanent supportive housing units, comprehensive case management, mental health, substance abuse, and employment services for ex-offenders, serving approximately 30 individuals. Gehring told the committee, “This is a very strong wrap-around program that will help folks move to success as they come out of incarceration.”


SafePlace – $100,000 to provide support for staff and direct financial assistance to move survivors of domestic and sexual violence into safe and stable housing. Approximately 115 individuals will be served.


After staff’s presentation, Committee Member Laura Morrison asked if the 46 new units created by the proposal would involve “bricks and mortar on the ground. Or does it transition an (already existing) apartment to supportive housing?”


Gehring told her that the program wouldn’t involve any construction, that “typically they’re affordable or maybe not affordable housing units that are on the ground, and each of the agencies has found a willing partner to come in and say, ‘We’ll move these (units) to a different targeted service population.’”


When Gehring and Lurie were through, Committee Member Randi Shade moved to recommend staff’s proposal to City Council, and her motion was approved unanimously, 3-0.


Council will take up the issue at their January 28 meeting. 

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