Reducing unsheltered homelessness in Downtown Austin
The Downtown Austin Alliance is committed to ensuring downtown is a safe, healthy, vibrant and welcoming environment for all. Addressing unsheltered homelessness downtown is a top priority for the organization and is essential to achieving this objective.
We advocate for research-based policy and planning, lead and participate in collaborative efforts and directly fund programs and projects ranging from outreach and health care to housing. And for more than 20 years, we have provided gainful employment opportunities to many people experiencing homelessness through our Downtown Ambassadors program.
Shelter & Housing Capital Projects
The Downtown Alliance has been instrumental in supporting key efforts to increase the amount of safe and stable housing for people experiencing homelessness downtown.
Community First! Village
The Downtown Alliance has reached the $1M mark, halfway to a full pledge goal of $2M over 10 years toward the development of Community First! Village, an internationally recognized community that provides people experiencing chronic homelessness with housing, services, income-generating opportunities and the ability to build fulfilling lives. The grant was the largest in the history of the Downtown Alliance.Visit Website⟶
Terrace at Oak Springs
This 40,000 square-foot housing first community, developed and operated by Integral Care, provides 50 fully-furnished, single occupancy units exclusively for people who were chronically homeless. The Downtown Austin Alliance contributed $150,000 in the form of a challenge grant, resulting in $300,000 toward the capital campaign to develop this project. Physical and behavioral health care services and substance use treatment are provided at the on-site medical clinic, and case management and wrap-around services are readily available to all residents.Visit Website⟶
The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation partnered with benefactor Dick Rathgeber to raise $380,000 to open the Rathgeber Center, a 212-bed shelter for families experiencing homelessness. In February 2020, all of the families and women with children were moved from the Salvation Army's downtown shelter into the Rathgeber Center, opening up 55 beds at the downtown shelter to accommodate more single adults.Visit Website⟶
Testing & Funding Creative Approaches
For more than a decade, the Downtown Austin Alliance has led and participated in public and private partnerships focused on innovative, research-based solutions for addressing homelessness. Efforts we’ve been involved in include:
HEART Austin is a program in partnership with Urban Alchemy piloting a new approach to proactively engage with and address the needs of people experiencing homelessness downtown. Learn more about HEART Austin on our dedicated program page.
Homelessness Reunification Partnership
The Downtown Austin Alliance began a program partnership with Trinity Center to support and enhance their existing homelessness family reunification program on October 1, 2021. Since the program’s start, a total of 385 people have been reunified through December 31, 2023.
When a person experiencing homelessness requests to be reunified, Trinity Center first confirms that there is a person on the receiving end who commits to providing housing and care for that client. Once that connection has been verified, Trinity Center provides a bus ticket to transport the client to that location. The Downtown Austin Alliance provides funding to make this program happen, ultimately connecting folks experiencing homelessness downtown with a stable base of support.
From May 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023, Trinity Center reunited a total of 158 people experiencing homelessness with their families or support systems. December was the program’s highest monthly total yet with 32 people reunified, including two families of five people each.
Homelessness Health and Wellness Center
Research funded by the Downtown Alliance identified a critical need for increased behavioral health services to help people transition out of homelessness and prevent them from returning to the streets. This led the Downtown Austin Alliance to create an innovative program with Integral Care and Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) that provides people experiencing homelessness downtown direct access to housing-focused behavioral health care using the Terrace at Oak Springs as the service hub.
Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST)
In 2016, the Downtown Alliance played a pivotal role in creating the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST), an innovative partnership between the Austin Police Department (APD), Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) and Integral Care. This interdisciplinary team proactively addresses the needs of people experiencing homelessness downtown by providing immediate care and connecting them to essential services, shelter and/or housing.
Downtown Austin Unsheltered Homeless Count
The Downtown Austin Alliance conducts periodic counts of persons, tents or makeshift structures and inhabited vehicles within the Downtown Public Improvement District (PID). The count is limited to observation only and a multiplier is used to estimate the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness.
We began our data collection in May 2021. Over the last year, we have seen a significant decrease in people experiencing unsheltered homelessness downtown and an increase in folks getting connected to community support resources. This data helps inform our ongoing efforts to improve the circumstances for unsheltered individuals in Downtown Austin.
Homeless System Process Triage
The Downtown Austin Alliance sponsored a process to map Austin’s homeless service system, identify “clogs” or gaps in the system and prioritize steps that can increase the effectiveness of the system. This business-forward approach resulted in the creation of a detailed homeless system map and 12 improvement priorities that have helped shape new projects and initiatives.
Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) is the first point of entry into the homeless social service system for many Austinites experiencing homelessness. The Downtown Alliance led advocacy to revise the scope for the ARCH management contract. The new scope, which went into effect April 1, 2019, has increased the housing focus of the shelter and reduced overcrowding and negative activity outside the facility.
Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness in Austin
In 2021, the Downtown Austin Alliance played a key role in bringing together 250 entities to unify the community around a vision and goals to reduce unsheltered homelessness in Austin. The primary outcome of the Summit was a commitment to rehouse an additional 3,000 people in 3 years and to reach system equilibrium in 5 years.Learn More⟶
Photo credit for images of Community First! Village (first image on page and in Community First! content block): Mobile Loaves & Fishes