The Homelessness Outreach Street Team, or HOST, is a new, collaborative initiative recently launched in downtown Austin to address the needs of people living on the streets. HOST is modeled after similar programs that have been successful in other cities in the U.S.
HOST is a proactive approach to addressing peoples’ needs using appropriate resources to help bridge the gaps between social services and safety where hard-to-reach populations get stuck in the revolving door of emergency shelters, justice systems, and emergency services. The team consists of two police officers, two behavioral health specialists, a paramedic, and an outreach social worker provided by the Austin Police Department, Austin Travis County Integral Care, Austin/Travis County EMS, and Downtown Austin Alliance.
The test project runs from June 1 through September 30, 2016 within the boundaries of the Colorado River, Lamar Blvd., 29th Street, and I-35. HOST will connect people with Front Steps, Salvation Army, Caritas of Austin, Trinity Center, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), and other social service and support organizations.
The anticipated outcome of these efforts is a reduction in EMS transports, emergency room use, jail bookings, and an increase in case management, enrollment in coordinated assessment, and opportunities for permanent supportive housing. Based on the success of the program, the agencies involved would look for funding support to fill the social service gaps and make HOST a permanent program.