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Austin launches displacement prevention pilot program

Friday, March 31, 2023 by Nina Hernandez

Austin will soon have a network of displacement prevention organizers connecting vulnerable communities with the city programs and resources they need to stay in their homes and communities.

The city announced the program’s launch on March 30, during a press conference featuring City Council members Vanessa Fuentes and Natasha Harper-Madison.

The Displacement Prevention Navigator pilot program will work to help renters and homeowners stay in their homes by hiring a team of community navigators who will canvass targeted communities in Austin and work to connect them with available resources. The idea evolved from the Housing and Planning Department’s list of 15 displacement prevention strategies.

“We know that there are residents that are feeling the burden of displacement pressures,” said Rosie Truelove, director of the Housing and Planning Department. “Our goal is to help them remain in their homes and communities.”

Navigators will earn $25 per hour and work 10 to 15 hours per week during the yearlong program. The application deadline is April 30. Those selected will attend a six-week training session this summer.

Nefertitti Jackmon is the city’s community displacement prevention officer. She said ideal navigators are familiar with the communities in which they will serve. Navigators will inform residents in danger of displacement about potential displacement assistance, and help them apply.

The program will begin by focusing on two neighborhoods: Colony Park and Dove Springs. Colony Park is in Harper-Madison’s District 1, and Dove Springs is in Fuentes’ District 2.

“These two communities were selected to start the pilot program because compared to the rest of Austin, Colony Park and Dove Springs have higher shares of cost-burdened residents and residents who have also lived in their homes for more than 20 years,” Jackmon said.

This summer, the new team of navigators will meet to learn the ins and outs of the city’s housing resources. In the fall, the team will begin targeted door-to-door outreach in those communities.

“Navigators will go beyond just informing people about the services that are available,” Jackmon said. “But they’re going to provide a personal approach and touch, working closely with people to connect them to available resources in the city. Our hope is that this program will help many of our residents and we are fortunate to have Council’s support.”

Fuentes noted that she initially brought forward a budget rider directing the creation of this program back in 2021.

“We hope we get residents applying from Dove Springs and Colony Park so they can be that on-the-ground liaison connecting our residents with city resources,” Fuentes said. “It’s not always easy for households to know where to go or to know all about the tons of city programs that we have available. So that’s why these navigators are key, because they are going to have those in-person conversations.”

Navigators will help both homeowners and renters. For instance, a homeowner might need help connecting to city home repair programs. Renters might be connected to rental or utility assistance programs.

Jackmon said the door-to-door element of the program is to give people an avenue to these programs other than strictly online.

“We need to go beyond just using technology as a way to communicate with the public,” Jackmon said.

Photo by Joe Mabel, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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