Our collective response to the State of Texas/Governor’s interventions regarding homelessness in Austin:
Overview Bullet Points:
- The state of Texas and the Governor’s office recently created a sanctioned encampment on state land in Austin, TX for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
- The given explanation for the State’s intervention was to protect Texans, but for this to be true it seems only logical that this would include housing for Texans experiencing homelessness.
- The protection and welfare of Texans is something we believe in and work toward daily, and while we encourage the Governor’s office to deploy State resources at its disposal, we invite the office to partner with Texas communities in a way that is productive rather than counterproductive.
The productive path forward:
- The state of Texas has the ability to leverage local homeless response systems’ planning and resources by offering new resources that can solve and prevent homelessness for Texas households.
- The state of Texas can create new paths out of homelessness and become a model for other states to follow if it concentrates its investments on sustainable solutions to homelessness like the creation of affordable housing, funding for supportive services, and increasing access to mental healthcare services among others.
- Making sustainable investments such as these would allow Texas to achieve goals such as effectively ending veteran and family homelessness.
- The state of Texas can be a champion in this endeavor by increasing opportunities for housing development through strengthening the State’s housing trust fund and funding it with a dedicated revenue source. This could include the dedication of more Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) dollars to housing for persons 30% and below or rehabbing units at the Fair Market Rate (FMR) so federal subsidies can be used across a larger number of units. Texas could also facilitate initiatives that allow private investment to solve community problems such as creating more units of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) through the investment of dollars from Managed Care Organizations that have an interest in housing their super-utilizers of expensive health care interventions.
The counterproductive path forward:
- The State’s plan for a sanctioned encampment in Austin, TX gives the appearance of solving homelessness, but is in fact just pushing it down the road. This sanctioned encampment is destined to be ineffective because it’s funneling private dollars to temporary programs that keep people experiencing homelessness rather than investing those dollars into proven solutions like the creation of affordable housing, wraparound supportive services, or improving access to mental healthcare services. This sets a harmful precedent as many Texas cities look to Austin for best practices to emulate.
- Furthermore, the interference from the Governor’s office and planned implementation of a sanctioned encampment is not in alignment with the local plan for addressing homelessness in Austin.
- Collaboration across multiple agencies and systems is required to address homelessness and we would prefer that the state of Texas work in concert with communities throughout the state rather than intervening in isolation.
- Placing people experiencing homelessness on land away from homeless crisis response system supports and without a focus on exiting people to housing is in practice the ghettoization of people based on housing status.
- In reality, most will not go to this designated area despite TXDOT’s mandated cleanings under overpasses which will continue to drive people further away from the resources, assistance, and benefits that come with being a part of the Austin community. When people are driven out of sight they become more vulnerable to violence, trauma, and harder to reach in times of crisis.
- Furthermore, forcing Texans experiencing homelessness into designated encampments is truly a violation of constitutional rights and their freedom to choose where they live, rights afforded to every citizen of this state and nation.
To read THN’s official press release in response to the state of Texas/governor’s intervention, click here