Austin tries new homeless healthcare program as it prepares to enforce camping ban

Austin tries new homeless healthcare program as it prepares to enforce camping ban

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As staff work on educating the homeless community about Proposition B, which reinstitutes a camping ban, and identifying locations for sanctioned encampments, they’re also rolling out a new program that focuses on behavioral health.

Bill Brice with the Downtown Austin Alliance explained how the “Healthcare for the Homeless” program works during Wednesday evening’s Downtown Commission meeting.

Austin tries new homeless healthcare program as it prepares to enforce camping ban

“It provides a direct line to behavioral health care for people who are downtown experiencing homelessness,” he said. 

Brice said the program, which launched Wednesday, is in partnership with the Alliance, Integral Care, Downtown Austin Community Court and the Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST).

“The genesis of this came out of research that was funded by Downtown Austin Alliance several years ago that really put a thumbprint on the need for increased behavioral healthcare for people experiencing homelessness,” he said.

Brice said they then asked Integral Care to draft a program model. The first year of the program will cost $ 520,000, split between the Alliance and the City of Austin. Integral Care’s Terrace at Oak Springs Clinic will serve as the program’s service hub.

“The goal: to provide 100 to 150 per year, with housing-focused health care,” he told commission board members on Tuesday. A spokesperson tells KXAN they’ve already enrolled 13 people in the program.

Brice said this is a new model they’re piloting downtown, for now. He said based on nonprofit ECHO’s Point in Time Counts, a third of unsheltered individuals live downtown.

Austin tries new homeless healthcare program as it prepares to enforce camping ban
ECHO Point In Time homeless count from 2019.

“We think this is a program that might prove up a model that could be replicated into a broader geographic area once we’re able to test it,” he said.

KXAN’s Tahera Rahman will have more details on the new Healthcare for the Homeless program coming up on KXAN News at 5 p.m.

Author: Tahera Rahman
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

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