AUSTIN, Texas — In an update on Tuesday, the City of Austin said it helped a total of 48 individuals move from homeless encampments to temporary bridge shelters as part of the 11th Housing-Focused Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) initiative.
HEAL carries out closures of Austin encampments that pose the highest public health and safety risks. The latest initiative helped move 45 people from an encampment at Gustavo “Gus” L. Garcia District Park, near Cameron Road and East Rundberg Lane, and three people from an encampment near the Asian American Resource Center on Cameron Road, the City said. People experiencing homelessness were offered transfer to shelter and connection to housing resources.
“The HEAL Initiative is just one part of the City’s response to homelessness, but it’s a critical strategy to compassionately move people from encampments into shelter, with a clear path to housing and services,” said City of Austin Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey.
These encampments were the first to be served by the HEAL initiative since Oct. 1, 2022. Since HEAL began in June 2021, 409 individuals have voluntarily moved from high-risk encampments to Southbridge and Northbridge shelters.
In an update in September, the City said more than half of the people HEAL connected to shelters this year returned to homelessness.
During a city council public health committee meeting, Grey broke down data that showed that, since the first relocation in June 2021, 361 people were moved into one of the two shelters by early September 2022.
Data showed that 65% (213) of those people had exited the bridge shelters, 44% (or 94 people) found housing, and 48% (or 102 people) returned to homelessness.
"I would not expect that proportion to remain," said Grey.
She said many people left the shelter because of how long the process took when the initiative originally started, and it's tough adjusting to a structured environment with rules.
Austin City Council approved the HEAL initiative in February 2021. HEAL is one element of Finding Home ATX, an effort to reduce unsheltered homelessness in Austin.