AUSTIN, Texas — As homeless shelters in Austin continue to become more crowded, groups like Integral Care are pushing for more "housing first" solutions, which aim to help move homeless individuals move into more supportive, permanent housing.
Integral Care plans to do this through their new complex that's being built in East Austin, the Terrace at Oak Springs. According to Integral Care, this is expected to be the first project in Central Texas to utilize the "housing first" approach to address Austin's homelessness.
Terrace at Oak Springs will be located at 3000 Oak Springs Drive in Austin. The apartment will be a four-story, 40,000 square-foot community with 50 fully-furnished single occupancy efficiency units. The complex will provide housing to those experiencing homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse disorder.
"We all know homelessness is an increasing issue across our community and integral care serves a unique population that is individuals living with mental illness and substance abuse disorder and chronic illness," said Ellen Richards, the chief strategy officer for Integral Care. "Our goal is to help those individuals move from the streets to a home and recover from the conditions that they live with. Without a home, no one can recover on the streets, so the goal of this project and others like that are to ensure that people have a safe place to call home and begin that journey to recovery."
Integral Care plans to house 50 individuals, men and women, half of which will be homeless veterans. While staff with Integral Care is currently in the process of narrowing down the list of individuals who will be moving into the complex, Richards said that some of the on-site rehabilitation and substance use treatment services will be available to those outside of the community.
"There's nothing more meaningful to me than taking someone from one of the lowest points in their life and creating an opportunity to re-imagine who they can be and giving them the support that they need."
Although the units will be fully-furnished, through the end of May, community members can help make sure the residents are not moving in completely empty-handed. Integral Care has partnered up with Coco Bundle to provide housing essentials such as bedding, towels, cookware and more, similar to a wedding gift registry.
To begin browsing for items to donate, click here.
Loretta Buster knows the pain and struggle of living on Austin's streets all too well. After getting out of an abusive relationship, she said she had nowhere to go.
"It's so hot and you're so thirsty walking around the streets in Austin. It's hard to keep a positive mindset. It's hard to focus on your future when you have nothing in front of you," Buster said. " People are desperate for water. I was beaten up for a thermos of water, so I was really really desperate. I don't think I would be alive today. I definitely wouldn't be as mentally sound as I am."
She was homeless, timing out of shelters for three years until in 2016 when she made her transition to her apartment thanks to a caseworker through Integral Care. She said it was scary at first to accept the help, but hopes others who are currently struggling will find the faith and courage to accept it as well and hopes more community members will take an active role in helping Austin's homeless.
"I'm really truly grateful to be planning my future instead of planning my demise," Buster said. "Not give them a handout, give them a hand up! Off the concrete and onto their feet."
Integral Care supports adults and children living with mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities in Travis County. They have a 24-hour hotline for anyone who might need their help that can be reached at 512-472-4357 (HELP).
To learn more about the services Integral Care provides, click here.
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