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'We're blown away' | Travis County Commissioners Court votes to allocate $110M to rehousing the homeless

The commissioners court made the decision at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Travis County Commissioners Court has voted to allocate $110 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to “address homelessness and affordable housing.”

Item 37 on the commissioner's court agenda said Travis County was allocated $247,450,630 Local Fiscal Recovery Funds through ARPA. The money can be used to “address public health needs including affordable housing and strategies to rehouse people experiencing homelessness.”

Multiple organizations have requested portions of the funds to assist with project costs. The requests total nearly $110 million.

"We’re blown away," said Alan Graham of the vote. 

Graham is the CEO and founder of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. Mobile Loaves and Fishes/Community First! Village and Foundation Communities asked for $50 million to help create the Burleson Village, a “supportive housing community” for approximately 700 residents.

Another $50 million was requested by the Travis County Supportive Housing Collaborative. These funds would go to developing new affordable housing communities across Travis County for 1,000 new residents.

The collaborative is made up of seven different organizations "who serve our community and have histories of providing critical housing in our community and are part of our communities crisis response system for homelessness," said Susan McDowell, the CEO of LifeWorks.

McDowell said, along with LifeWorks, the seven include The Austin Area Urban League, Caritas, Family Eldercare, Integral Care, SAFE, and A New Entry.

"So you've got some organizations in the collaborative that have a youth focus. Others have a domestic violence or sexual violence focus. Some have a focus on mental health support. So our idea is coming together we can develop a collaborative plan that will best engage and serve our community," said McDowell. 

The collaborative's plan is to have six-eight different sites of affordable housing with wrap-around services placed around Travis County. Sites are expected to meet certain criteria, such as proximity to transportation, healthcare, and grocery stores. 

While multiple sites are still being assessed, McDowell said the goal is to have site plans finished by January. 

The Other Ones Foundation requested $3 million to assist with developing Camp Esperanza. The CEO said the funds would help build a transformative shelter complex, including a community center, where they will provide shelter for an estimated 200-300 persons at any given time. It will include support services and rental assistance with a goal of rehousing 400 – 475 persons per year. 

"People will have access to safe and stable shelter," said Chris Baker, founder and executive director of The Other Ones Foundation. "Tents are not meant to be lived in long term. And the shelter structures that are being installed are meant to be lived in long term."

Foundation Communities also needs $6.5 million to complete the Juniper Creek Apartments, which will be made up of 100 affordable units for formerly homeless families with children.

Overall, the $110 million that was approved unanimously on Sept. 14 will fund over 2,000 new units. In April, local leaders set a goal of rehousing 3,000 people experiencing homelessness in the next three years at the Summit to Address Unsheltered Homelessness in Austin.

The Austin City Council has collectively approved approximately $106 million of federal stimulus money for homelessness, according to a report from the Austin-American Statesman.  

RELATED: Austin City Council unanimously approves fiscal year 2021-22 budget

The Council also approved the city’s budget for fiscal year 2021-22 in August. The budget allocated $65.2 million to the “City’s response to the homelessness crisis.”

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