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As federal funds decline, Council will consider future funding for the homeless

Wednesday May 29, 2024 by Chad Swiatecki

With the city nearly exhausted of federal money dedicated to providing housing for homeless people, the City Council will likely direct staff to adjust and improve processes, in coordination with Travis County, for a short-term assistance and long-term housing and services.

A recent joint meeting of the Public Health and Housing and Planning committees saw the adoption of a recommendation asking Council to consider a number of measures related to both rapid rehousing and housing assistance permanent with support services.

Steps include finding ways to optimize the waitlist process for both forms of housing, improving the pathway to permanent supportive housing units and services for those currently receiving housing assistance. temporary housing, and working with relevant agencies and philanthropic groups to assess the current and future state of the situation. homeless in the area.

The meeting included a joint presentation from the Office of Homeless Services, the Department of Housing and representatives from Travis County’s recent supportive housing initiative, which showed the city spent more than $94 million dollars of the $95.3 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). that the Council allocated to programs to combat homelessness.

David Gray, director of HSO, said the city will have to stop enrolling federally funded rapid rehousing clients at the end of this year because of guidelines that require at least 24 months of assistance, with the requirement that all funds be spent by the end of 2026.

Gray said that in the 2023 budget year, the city had 2,226 people enrolled in a rapid rehousing program through 13 contracted providers, with many of those clients coming from the city’s program to disperse homeless encampments. -shelter throughout the region. With ARPA money accounting for $18 million of the $23 million spent on rapid rehousing, Gray said city staff is studying how to restructure programs and find other means of funding.

“We are preparing for our system to be resized somewhat once these ARPA dollars eventually disappear. A lot of people are worried about what will happen when ARPA funds run out, and so we are not blind to that,” he said. “When ARPA funds were allocated for rapid rehousing, they were specifically aimed at filling a backlog that existed at the time. …In many ways, we have been successful in closing this backlog.

Gray said a reduction in rapid rehousing funds would likely result in the re-emergence of encampments around the city because there would be no way to move those residents into city-subsidized temporary housing.

As for permanent supportive housing, Jamie May, manager of housing and community development at the Ministry of Housing, said the city is on track to have more than 1,300 such units by the end of 2027 , with various new constructions underway.

Since that represents about 25 percent of the estimated 6,000 unhoused people in the region in a year, he said the community needs to think more than five years in advance about how to fund supportive housing units additional permanents.

“We’ve invested a lot of capital starting in 2022, and we’re seeing the result of that and it’s really impressive,” he said. “We won’t have another ARPA coming in a few years, or even now – so what are we going to do to plan for the next four, five, six, seven years? These are very expensive projects and there are only a limited number of 9% tax credits (federal grant).

Councilmember Ryan Alter said the city and county need to collaborate on a plan on how to leverage funding from both agencies to meet the future needs of unhoused people.

“What is our goal for 2027? Do we think we need 300 units, 400 units, 500 units? It would be really helpful for us to look beyond what we know will happen over the next few years and help us understand not only what the goal is, but also what funding is needed.

Photo made available via a Creative Commons license.

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