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$2 million goes to collaborative aiming to help homeless population

The ASOC hopes to increase access to services and better connect people experiencing homelessness to housing.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The headline of this article previously stated that a $3 million grant would go to the collaborative. It has been updated to reflect that $2 million of a $3 million grant will go to the group.

A new collaborative is set to form in hopes of addressing and better serving those experiencing homelessness in Austin-Travis County. 

It's called the Austin Street Outreach Collaborative (ASOC), which is set to start thanks to a $3.1 million grant from the St. David's Foundation. Around $2 million will go toward creating the ASOC. 

A product of conversations with service providers, people experiencing homelessness and the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), the ASOC will add 12 full-time employees across different organizations currently working to end homelessness. This will help with outreach, coordination and data intake. 

"Then we can actually see where the system is breaking down, where the opportunities are, where the gaps are, who's being served, who's not being served, who's being left out," said Edward Burger, president and CEO of the St. David's Foundation.

The need for expanding data intake is a driving force behind this collaborative. 

"When we start working with these more grassroots organizations, they already have that relationship with those clients that we've been trying to reach," said Alesandra Dominguez of ECHO. "So now giving them the tools to be able to incorporate their data into the larger system will allow us to kind of seamlessly kind of continue that work and not have to recreate the wheel."

The data would go into Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and therefore will give ECHO and other service providers a better picture and understanding of people experiencing homelessness in the area and how best to serve them. 

"And if we can meet them where they're at, where they already have that relationship, it will allow us to better serve them and hopefully quickly get them out of homelessness," said Dominguez.

Austin-Travis County has a few different street outreach teams, like HOST, M3 and PATH, which basically include different service providers or medical teams that take a boots-on-the-ground approach – going to the people to get them connected to services.

The ASOC would act as an umbrella for all of these teams.

"This group will, I think, give us more geographic coverage and more saturation across our community to be able to gather those data points that we need and make sure that there's equitable access for our community members experiencing homelessness to our system," said Matt Mollica, executive director of ECHO. 

In addition to adding staff and expanding data intake, the ASOC will also make sure services can be accessed through different locations and various providers, making it easier on those who need help.

ECHO staff will manage the ASOC. Mollica said he expects the collaborative to start work early next year. 

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