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'First responders' for Austin's homeless: HOST helps more than 1K people in 2019

The Homeless Outreach Street Team, or HOST, combines EMS, police and service providers to help homeless on the streets.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The video above about HOST was published in August.

The Homeless Outreach Street Team (HOST) is one of a kind for the City of Austin. The team is dedicated to helping homeless people before their needs get any worse. 

The team is a collaboration between ATCEMS, the Austin Police Department, Integral Care and Downtown Austin Community Court

"It literally started off as a small team of a paramedic, a police officer, a social worker, a case manager, and has grown to a nearly dozen people," said Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) Assistant Chief Andy Hofmeister. "What they do is provide outreach, primarily in the downtown and West Campus area, to address the needs of those that are experiencing homelessness."

HOST said since there is a wide range of team members, it can address many different needs people living on the street may face.


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Since HOST was created as a pilot program in July 2016, it has made more than 7,000 visits and connected people with medical and mental health services. 

"HOST is making a measurable difference because every day our team takes to the streets to engage directly with Austin’s homeless," said Hofmeister. "They establish a relationship, figure out ways to connect the person with whatever they may need, whether that’s housing, mental health care or medical health care, and seek to make a genuine change in someone’s life."

HOST said the impact it has is encouraging to see. 

Along with just making visits to camps, in 2019, HOST reported helping just under 1,200 homeless people. Hofmeister said that included "connection through a social service agency, or somebody that can provide medical care, or mental health services, or even as simple as getting an ID."

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