AUSTIN (KXAN) — After voters signed off on a camping ban, and as the City of Austin and Travis County push more funding towards ending homelessness, people in Austin have likely started to notice high traffic overpasses are no longer a hub for people experiencing homelessness — but it doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) said.
Last year the City kicked off Phase Two of its Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) initiative, which aims to get people off the streets and into housing. As part of Phase One of HEAL, which lasted from April to September, about 150 people were relocated from encampments to Austin’s two new bridge shelters. Many more have been relocated since.
While overpasses in Austin may no longer be a glaring reminder of the problem, many of those people are likely still living outside, Chris Davis, communications manager for ECHO, told KXAN.
“As you’re driving around Austin and you’re seeing overpasses that are clear now, more likely than not the folks who were living there are still living outside, just not where you can see them,” he explained. It’s one of the many reasons why ECHO is asking the community to join in on the 2022 Week of Action to Support Ending Homelessness.
“Really what we’re trying to do is equip people with simple actions that they can take every day that make a positive impact on lives of people who are experiencing homelessness,” Davis said.
As a part of that initiative, people are asked to take a step every day to help forward the fight against ending homelessness. Here’s the schedule:
- Friday: Learn about homelessness in our community
- Saturday: Create awareness or something tangible to support a community member experiencing homelessness
- Sunday: Share what you have created
- Monday: Give what you can to keep momentum going
- Tuesday: Thank the helpers in the community
- Wednesday: Commit to continuing your advocacy year-round
Here are a couple examples of groups who are asking participants to help them through this initiative.
- LifeWorks hosted a virtual discussion with their CEO about youth homelessness which you can watch back on LifeWorks’ Facebook Page
- Caritas of Austin is asking people to make winter preparedness kits
- Menstrual Flux is asking people to donate period products and create supply kits
- ECHO is asking people to make donations that center around racial and gender equity (things like Black hair products, period products and gender-neutral clothing)
“We’re seeing the first steps in turning those investments into real solutions for people but it’s going to take some time and in the meantime our system is simply not robust enough to provide everyone with the housing and the services that they need,” Davis said.