Austin creates independent office to lead homelessness response
The city's homeless strategy division will move out from under Austin Public Health and stand on its own, interim City Manager Jesús Garza announced Tuesday.
Garza said a review of the city's homelessness programs, policies and funding showed the organizational structure was preventing the division from effectively responding to the needs of the community.
In a memo to the Austin City Council, Garza said while the division was embedded within APH, the initiatives to address homelessness span departments and "require focused coordination."
“Consequently, I am establishing a stand-alone Homeless Strategy Office to serve as a focal point for addressing homelessness comprehensively, strategically, and compassionately,” he said.
David Gray, who has been the interim homeless strategy officer since September, was promoted to lead the new office, Garza said. Gray replaced Dianna Grey, who resigned in August.
“As a city, our goal is to set the standard for innovative and strategic approaches to addressing homelessness and strengthening partnerships with the broad base of stakeholders who care about and invest in this issue,” Gray said. “Creating this stand-alone office and positioning it to marshal resources from many fronts is a strong indicator of the commitment and dedication of city leaders to helping people experiencing homelessness and to provide them with hope and help when they need it most.”
The role of the office will still be overseeing operations at city shelters, working with local partners and organizations to expand housing options for people experiencing homelessness, and improving communication with the homeless community.
Earlier this year, the city opened a temporary shelter at the Marshalling Yard in Southeast Austin, and it's working to reopen the former Salvation Army shelter downtown. The city also recently launched a text message alert system to connect with people who are unhoused.
The new office will also review the homeless services provided by partners, including Central Health, Integral Care, Travis County, and the Dell Medical School, according to the memo.
The new office will launch on Dec. 4.