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Homeless Man Found Dead Prompts Reality Check for Service Providers

A homeless man who lived on the Drag was found dead on the street the same day a Veterans Affairs caseworker went to notify him he was going to get housing, the Austin American-Statesman reports today

72-year-old Kevin Hawk, pictured above, had been homeless for 40 years and was a regular fixture in the area. His art was on display at Tom's Tabooley, according to Andrea Ball’s report in the Statesman.

Hawk had been identified in a study conducted last month to identify who among Austin’s homeless population is most at risk of dying. The 100 Homes Campaign interviewed almost 300 homeless people.

  • 48 percent had mental health issues
  • 47 percent were considered at risk of dying within five years unless they were housed.
  • 35 percent had been victims of a physical attack while homeless
  • 26 percent were over 60 years old

Ann Howard, executive director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), told us she was “devastated” when she heard Hawk died. “I had lunch with Hawk on Friday afternoon,” Howard said in a phone interview, “and I found him to be a delightful person.”

We asked Howard for a reality check on the effort to help Austin’s homeless population. This is what she said.

"The reality check is we’re clogged up. We’ve got in some cases the vouchers for housing, but maybe not enough housing. If you go to the City of Austin Housing Authority, they’ve got a wait list of thousands of people in Austin wanting housing for low income folks. This vulnerable population is competing with an already clogged system.

"We need more housing providers to come to the table. By that I mean landlords, apartment owners that are willing participate in some of these programs. The rent’s going to be paid. We’re not asking you to offer free units. There is money to help these folks with housing.

"There’s not maybe enough, but right now there are VASH vouchers for veterans. There are other programs in the community that if we have the housing, we have some of the dollars to pay the rent. Then we’re also raising the money to wrap these folks in support services, whether it’s treatment for alcohol and mental health issues, or job training.

"The city is looking at how to fund this kind of permanent supportive housing long term, but right now, we need more players at the table, whether they have housing to offer or healthcare or services. It’s a combined effort and we need more players at the table."

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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