AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council on Thursday voted to pass Item 35, giving city staff the go-ahead to negotiate a contract with an expert for homelessness consulting services.

According to the item, the council set aside funding in an amount not to exceed $95,000 for an eight-month period ending on Sept. 30.

The expert, Matthew Doherty, will work with City leadership, key partners and community stakeholders to develop short- and long-term priorities and provide recommendations on strategies and actions critical to addressing homelessness.

Mayor Steve Adler told KVUE on Thursday that he believes Doherty brings in a wealth of information. 

“In Mr. Doherty’s role in the White House, he was helping to coordinate the work that was being done in virtually every city and state across the country," said Adler. “So he brings in just a wealth of information about what works ... and what doesn’t work in different kinds of situations.”

From 2015 to 2019, Doherty served as the executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, leading a team of 19 federal member agencies to prevent and end homelessness across the nation. According to the City of Austin, he has extensive experience in local, regional and national best practices, strategies and policy development.

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"The consulting work provided by Mr. Doherty will be a key component in the City's community-wide coordination and planning to effectively prevent and end homelessness," wrote the council.

According to Austin Public Health, the money will come from existing funds in the budget for homelessness. If signed, city staff said Doherty would work to find strategies while Austin Public Health looks for a lead for the Homeless Strategy Division.

Councilmember Leslie Pool said she saw some red flags with this contract, coming on the heels of Lori Pampilo Harris's hiring, who moved to a consulting role for the City shortly after she was hired to become Austin's Homeless Strategy Officer. The City reported her last day was on Jan. 3, 2020. 

Mayor Steve Adler said he believes Doherty will be "really valuable" to Austin.

“I feel a sense of urgency and would love to get that person engaged,” said Adler. 

Adler sent KVUE this statement following the vote: 

"Today’s move toward hiring the former White House homelessness coordinator is one of dozens of actions to ensure the City of Austin is adopting the very best practices used by cities and states across the county. Mr. Doherty will join other great professionals all coming together to beat homelessness in Austin. We will continue to focus on productive action, data and what works."

The item passed, with only Councilmember Jimmy Flannigan opposed.

"I'm not gonna support this contract today because I don't feel sufficiently educated about how we have adjusted for challenges that we experienced under our homeless strategy officer," said Flannigan. "Without those challenges accounted for I'm not really comfortable bringing in outside support."

Flannigan called for the City to coordinate through ECHO

RELATED: Austin City Council passes resolutions to increase funding for homeless shelters

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