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Front Steps working to reimagine care for people experiencing homelessness

Residents in the newly purchased home will be connected with resources while also learning skills of what it's like to manage a property.

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — One group that used to be the face of homeless outreach in Austin is rolling out big changes to its operations and making sure people know they are still here.

Thousand of people in Austin are experiencing homelessness on any given night, so outreach across Central Texas is crucial for unhoused individuals.

"We're in a new phase. And, currently, we are buying properties," said Sheila Joseph, the executive director of Front Steps.

Front Steps is a nonprofit working to help those experiencing homelessness and other challenges.

Historically, they have only worked with men experiencing homelessness, but as they work to rebuild their future, they're now planning to open their services up to women and children as well.

From 2004 to this past September, the group ran the ARCH shelter in Downtown Austin. But after some reorganization, they're trying to create more permanent options.

"I think it's important to lead by example. Real change doesn't come until, I mean, you have leaders stepping up when others don't," said Antonio Harmon, director of development for Front Steps.

In October, the group purchased its first home in Pflugerville. It will serve as both permanent and transitional housing, but it's just one location that Front Steps is planning to develop. Come 2023, they want to have a group of homes that will help them address homelessness.

"Our first home ... it's small, but, you know, do not despise the smaller beginnings, it's really nice," said Joseph.

The group said owning these properties will allow them to offer services and skills to those in need.

They already have case workers they work with, and are taking applications for more that will allow the people they help to connect with the resources they need.

"We're kind of just maybe using it as more of a transitional house for a couple of people and getting them into permanent housing while they're waiting for it," said Joseph.

Credit: New equipment for the Front Steps home (Ford Sanders/KVUE)

One of the residents in the home will be a permanent resident while two rooms will allow for the transition some may need, keeping rooms open from time to time.

Although Front Steps has seen changes this year, Harmon said they're not going away any time soon.

"We're leading with faith, compassion and courage. And we're going to fight every challenge ahead of us together, side by side. And we're going to, you know, we're going to be part of the solution," said Harmon.

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