AUSTIN, Texas — Community leaders are navigating how to provide more equitable solutions regarding homelessness, after the 2020 Point in Time (PIT) count highlighted existing racial disparities in the black and African American population.
In the latest count released by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), the proportion of African Americans experiencing homelessness slightly increased this year.
Remember, the PIT is a snapshot of data collected in one day.
Other data ECHO relies on and represents a consistent trend in the area found that the number of African Americans experiencing homelessness dropped by 1.9%.
Matt Mollica, the executive director of ECHO, said nonetheless, the results are "concerning" and "unacceptable."
Recently, ECHO formed a Racial Equity Task Group to find solutions and ensure equity in access to housing opportunities.
While Chas Moore, the executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, believes it is a strong step forward, he believes the numbers won't begin to change until people's mindsets do.
"If Austin continues to use an equity lens on issues, and a racial lens on issues, I think we can continue to overcome such disparities," Moore said.
The report stated African Americans represent more than one in three people counted this year, even though they represent less than one in 10 individuals in Austin-Travis County.
Moore believes the data is more of a reminder to the rest of the community about what African Americans face since this population already knows and experiences these inequities every day.
"We don't really value the stories of people impacted or people who have been the victim of institutional/systemic racism until the data comes," Moore said.
Quiana Fischer, the co-chair of ECHO's task group, challenged the community, service providers and decision-makers to take action.
"To move past the equality lens and move toward providing real equity in housing services," Fischer stated in the report.
In this year's count, 2,171 people experiencing homelessness were placed in permanent housing. That increased by 7% since 2018 and by 25% since 2017.
As more mental health resources, substance abuse resources and housing become available, Moore encouraged leaders to ensure there is a concerted effort to target the disadvantaged populations that make up the homeless community too.
"I think we have to get creative in how we use those money dollars to make sure we address the issues to not only decrease but hopefully completely eliminate homelessness in Austin," he said.
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