Austin could do more to help the homeless, audit says

A new audit says the City of Austin needs to do a better job coordinating assistance efforts for the homeless.

AUSTIN -- A new city audit released Tuesday states the City of Austin needs to do a better job coordinating homelessness assistance efforts.

The Office of the City Auditor said the audit was conducted "to determine if the City coordinates homelessness assistance efforts to achieve desired outcomes for people experiencing homelessness." This is the second in the series, and found the city lacks a dedicated position or group to coordinate help for the homeless.

"A lack of coordination can also lead to missed opportunities to aid people experiencing homelessness," the audit stated. "For example, locating social workers from Austin Public Health in libraries could result in the ability to connect more people experiencing homelessness to services. City programs to assist low-income residents may also be used to identify people at risk of losing their housing. This may allow the City to help them avoid becoming homeless."

Currently, there are 22 different agencies that help the city's growing homeless population. When these organizations work separately, assistance can be duplicated in certain areas and fall off in other areas. The audit looked at other cities of similar size and found San Diego, Dallas and San Francisco all do a better job supporting this growing population because they have a single position or an entire department dedicated to coordinating homelessness assistance. For example, San Diego has a Mayor’s Senior Advisor on Homeless Coordination, Dallas has a Homeless Commission and San Francisco has a Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

The recommendation is that Austin’s city manager designate a position within the city whose primary responsibility is to coordinate homelessness assistance in Austin. That person should develop a plan to address homelessness and coordinate city department’s efforts. The hope is this person can address some of the concerns like the health and safety issues downtown, using technology to help prevent people from becoming homeless and help concentrate services.

The end goal is to have a better handle on the issues facing Austin and to develop a three to five year plan to help the homeless.

TAP OR CLICK HERE to review the first report in the series from the City Auditor, "Homelessness Assistance Audit Series: City Policies Related to Homelessness"

TAP OR CLICK HERE to review the second report in the series from the City Auditor, “Homelessness Assistance Audit Series: Coordination of the City’s Homelessness Assistance Efforts”

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