In response to an open records request from HousingWorks Austin, the Austin Independent School District’s Project HELP has released data from the 2017-2018 school year regarding students who were classified as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. While the total number of homeless students in the district in the last school year, 2,301, is slightly lower than the previous school year’s total of 2,311, Project HELP attributes this to a small decrease in overall enrollment in the district. * The 2017-2018 total number of students living in community shelter or transitional housing, 328, includes 92 students who were displaced due to flooding from Hurricane Harvey. By the end of the school year, 41 of those students were still attending AISD schools.The persistently high number of students classified as homeless could be due somewhat to Project HELP having more success in identifying these students than in previous years. However, it’s still clear that many families and unaccompanied youth are having a very difficult time finding homes they can afford in Austin. Project HELP is an AISD program that works to help homeless students and their families find emergency housing, food, clothing, school supplies and other necessities so the children can remain in school. CapCityKids and many other groups assist Project HELP in this effort. However, the program does not have the resources to provide permanent, affordable housing for homeless families and unaccompanied youth.
SOLUTIONS ON THE HORIZON
- Last year, a group of key stakeholders led by the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), Mayor Steve Adler and Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo began developing an action plan to end homelessness in Austin. HousingWorks Austin took part in that process. The plan, which was adopted by Austin City Council in April, calls for an annual investment of $30 million from private and nonprofit sources.
- This November, Austin voters will go to the polls to decide on the largest affordable housing bond proposal in the city’s history, $250 million. If it passes, much of this funding will be used to create affordable housing for families with children and for unaccompanied youth.
- In January of 2017 the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the Austin/Travis County Continuum of Care $5.2 million through its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). The funding will help our community develop and implement a coordinated system strategy to end youth homelessness in Travis County. LifeWorks Austin plans to launch YHDP programs in October. You can learn more by reading the Coordinated Community Plan. As of June 2018, there were 341 unaccompanied youth in Austin/Travis County experiencing literal homelessness (unsheltered, sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation or in an emergency shelter) according to A Way Home America’s Community Dashboard.
- There is also an effort underway, led by ECHO, Integral Care and the City of Austin, to design a holistic system to bring an end to homelessness among families with children in Austin, and to develop a community plan to implement the system by 2020. HousingWorks Austin is committed to taking part in that coordinated effort.