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City of Austin launching new team to coordinate homeless encampment cleanups

The new system aims to prioritize almost $5 million budgeted for cleanups across the city.

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin announced Tuesday that it is streamlining its approach to managing homeless encampments.

On Tuesday, the City will launch the Homeless Encampment Management Team, a multi-departmental group that will coordinate management of public spaces occupied by homeless encampments. 

The City said it will use a central response structure to "apply a citywide lens to encampment management, so action is prioritized, and resources are deployed to encampments that present the highest risk to health and safety."

The City also said the new Homeless Encampment Management (HEM) tracking and prioritization tool will support consistent data capture to improve the City's understanding of needs, risks and trends across encampments in Austin.

The Homeless Encampment Management Team will use the HEM Tool to score encampments for cleanup and closure, according to the City. The tool will also be used to select sites for the HEAL (Housing-focused Encampment Assistance Link) initiative, which aims to provide people experiencing homelessness with direct access to shelter rand longer-term housing resources.

"The launch of a formalized cross-departmental Homeless Encampment Management Team and prioritization tool will help the City of Austin ensure that its resources are efficiently and equitably deployed," said Dianna Grey, the City's Homeless Strategy Officer. "At the same time, the structure will enhance our ability to track conditions in encampments, as well as related public space management activities."

The City said funding in the recently adopted Fiscal Year 2023 budget includes $4.8 million dedicated to encampment cleanup as part of a larger $84 million allocated to preventing and addressing homelessness in Austin.

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