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3 weeks on the job, Austin's new homeless officer says she sees a good path forward

Lori Pampilo Harris has been selected to serve as Austin's new "homeless strategy officer."

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin's newly hired "Homeless Strategy Officer" has been on the job for three weeks, and she met with KVUE Sept. 26 to lay out her plan to address homelessness in the city.

Lori Pampilo Harris has been selected to fill the new role with the City of Austin. She most recently served as senior advisor on homelessness and social services in Orlando, Florida, the city said.

Harris told KVUE she believes in making recommendations to the city and community that are based on data.

"That should be able to tell us the type of folks that are coming into our system," said Harris. "How they are entering our system, how long they are staying in the system and the type of resources that they need to end their experience in homelessness."

Harris said that they have the right elements to have a positive path towards the homelessness situation.

She said she will not tell Austin City Council "how to create laws, nor am I going to prioritize telling Austin Police Department how to enforce those laws."

"I think if you drill down to what city council is seeking to achieve, when you drill down to what the public is seeking to achieve, they're really looking for a system that's going to be efficient and effective and move people out of the state of homelessness," she said.


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Harris said she sympathizes with those who are homeless and those who live around the homeless.

"I have great sympathy for those who are finding new neighbors near where they work or where they live. I understand the uncomfortableness around that," she said. "I also have great sympathy for those who are living in places not meant for human habitation. And I think that same uncomfortableness of, you know, 'Why is this happening? What can I do personally and what can our community do?' is what everybody is seeking to find out."

The city believes her experience makes her qualified to tackle the job's challenges.

"Lori had the unique and ambitious goal of implementing 'Housing First' and supported the successful end to chronic veterans’ homelessness and reducing homelessness by 23.6% in a single year," the city said on its website.

Harris' position was created to tie in with the city's homelessness initiatives established when the city council adopted six strategic outcomes and indicators in March 2018, KVUE previously reported. The requirements for the job included a bachelor's degree, five years of experience directing human services programs and at least two years of experience in a leadership role.

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