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University of Texas, APH, ECHO, local health centers team up to provide COVID-19 emergency care shelter for Austin homeless

The fundraising initiative was launched by a gift from Austin entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria and his wife, Eloise, who are matching the first $250,000 in donations.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The video published above shows Austin Mayor Steve Adler's latest updates about coronavirus in Austin as of April 27.

Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin announced it is teaming up with Austin Public Health, CommUnityCare Health Centers and the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) to provide a safe place for people experiencing homelessness to self-quarantine and receive health care. 

According to UT, the emergency fundraising initiative was launched by a gift from Austin entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria and his wife, Eloise, who are matching the first $250,000 in donations. DeJoria co-founded tequila maker Patrón Spirits Co. and the John Paul Mitchell hair care company. The gift is through JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation, created by the DeJoria family to invest in charities that share the core values of the family’s companies — social responsibility and sustainability. 

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“This is a time when we need to all come together to help those less fortunate,” DeJoria said. “There are a lot of people experiencing homelessness on our streets. We want to shelter them. We want to protect them. In another time and place, I was one of them.”

The initiative will also serve as a pilot for a long-term project to provide temporary shelter and care when people experiencing homelessness have other medical conditions, according to UT. People who are released from the hospital to the streets without having a safe place to recover are at greater risk for rehospitalization, UT officials said.

“It’s impossible to shelter in place if you don’t have a home. Our community has a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Dell Med Dean Clay Johnston, M.D., Ph.D. “We are grateful for the generosity of these exceptional community leaders who are stepping up to support Central Texans experiencing homelessness.”

UT said the project's goals are to: 

  • Contain the spread of the coronavirus among people experiencing homelessness, as well as the larger community.
  • Preserve local hospital capacity.
  • Prevent health and social systems from being overwhelmed.

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