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Mayor Pushes to End Veteran Homelessness Before Veterans Day

John Shapley/KUT
Volunteer Judy Chen interviews Jerry Howell during ECHO's annual homlessness count last year.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has announced a plan for ending homelessness among military veterans in Austin by Veterans Day this year.

It’s part of the national Mayors’ Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. The Austin effort involves a coalition from government, non-profit, for-profit and real estate organizations. The Housing Our Heroes announcement takes place this morning outside the South Austin home of a formerly homeless vet.

The first step is to have all the organizations that work with veterans and all the organizations connected to housing in the same room, a plan that began earlier this week at city hall.

Ann Howard of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) says Frontsteps, Caritas, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, the Austin Apartment Association, the Austin Board of Realtors and the Veterans Administration are all on board. Howard is a part of the push, and so is Mayor Steve Adler, who conceived the plan.

“The fact that the people in this room have come together with a joint goal of effectively ending veteran homelessness in Austin, Texas, by Veterans Day is something that I'm incredibly proud of,” he says.

The second step of the plan is to call landlords and ask them point blank if they'd consider committing their vacant apartments to house homeless veterans. Kirk Rudy is in charge of working the phones. He's a volunteer with the mayor's office and a real estate expert who oversaw the development of the Domain.

Rudy is already hearing that some landlords will be committing some units

“You know, hopefully, this provider will be in the 20 to 30 range. We've got another group – in fact, I just saw my phone ring. It was him - who may be in the 20 to 30 range also,” he says. “Then there's another group that I think will be in the 10 to 15 range.”  

Before the mayor's Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, as it’s called, it would take veterans almost an entire year to get a place to live through the Veterans Administration. Paperwork took most of the time.

Under the proposal, there would be less red tape, but with a little less than three months left, the challenge is far from over. The mayor's office is asking for property owners to dedicate more apartments and monetary donations toward the cause.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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