Tag Archives: Homelessness

2019 Year in Review

2019 was a big year in all the ways we expected and a few we didn’t. We made major progress on affordability and mobility, putting bond money authorized by voters to good use and showing continued leadership on issues of equity, sustainability and climate. We continued to support the music and arts community and invested in good government practices and transparency. After seven years of hard work, study and community comment, Council ended the year by approving the first reading of the new draft land development code, a crucial step toward increasing housing stock, creating more affordable housing, reducing flood risk and providing transit options to meet the needs of our rapidly growing city.

2019 was also the year we took on homelessness as a city. Every corner of the civic debate was energized by Council’s efforts to decriminalize non-violent activities associated with homelessness and the resulting sense of urgency helped mobilized resources and focused a spotlight on the issue as a burgeoning national crisis. Working together with a coalition of service providers, Mayor and Council have made housing a top priority.

Here’s a look at what we accomplished together. (Actions taken by City Staff and/or by City Council.)

Defending Austin: Promoting the city’s values, character and priorities

  • 86th legislature brought big city mayors together to protect local priorities. 
  • Mayor and Council take steps to decriminalize homelessness 
  • Citywide Iftar features Ilhan Omar, welcomed by Mayor and members of Council promoting the Austin value of coming together.

Affordability: Keeping Austin affordable for the people who make it special.

  • The ‘Affordability Unlocked’ Development Bonus Program built on the 2018 Affordable Housing Bonds Began spending 2018 mobility and affordable housing bonds
  • Chalmers Court in East Austin opened a section of housing and broke ground on another on the way to more than 400 eventual units.
  • Increased the zoning capacity under UNO, North Burnet / Gateway, and Mueller
  • Provided a loan to Workforce Solutions to allow them to relocate and grow
  • Right to Return pilot program launched
  • Convened team to study cross-boundary collaboration around affordable housing through the Bloomberg Harvard Leadership Initiative
  • Austin’s housing strike fund (Austin Housing Conservancy Fund) ended the year with new funding and 3 long-term affordable properties under management.
  • Allocated $42M of planned spending from the 2018 affordable housing bond
  • Allocated a historic $14.4M for the Housing Trust Fund from the FY 19-20 budget in support of permanent supportive housing, housing rehabilitation, and land acquisition for affordable housing

Mobility: Working toward safe, efficient access to all parts of town… now and in the future

  • In September, announced Austin’s participation in Ford AV pilot with Ford Motor Company
  • In August, celebrated the completion of the Guadalupe/Lavaca project, the first corridor construction project which is part of the 2016 Mobility Bond
  • Continued work on Project Connect
  • Community gathering around transportation through: PUMA, Transit for Austin launch, MoveATX
  • Approved ASMP (Austin Strategic Mobility Plan)
  • Downtown MetroRail station 
  • Mayor was CAMPO chair and helped with the Capital Express Project Vote
  • Austin remains a testing space for new multimodal transportation, council leading nation in rules for micro mobility
  • Worked with UT on straightening Red River

Equity: Ensuring that Austin’s growth and success affect residents fairly 

  • Passed first reading of land development code
  • Austin’s first Latina Mayor Pro Tem 
  • Census Complete Count Committee
  • Funded start up costs for new Pre-K classrooms in Austin and surrounding ISDs 
  • Approved voter time off resolution 
  • Opened up City Council’s invocation than more than prayer through “Opening Moment”
  • Third party complaint system for sexual harassment 
  • Automatic library card to all AISD and Del Valle students
  • Permanent funding of parent support specialists at Title 1 schools
  • Trained over 400 people in the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond’s “Undoing Racism and Community Organizing Workshop,” developing anti-racist capacity among City staff and Austin community members
  • Reached over 2000 people milestone at the Beyond Diversity: Courageous Conversations About Race with Leadership Austin
  • Have 14 Courageous Conversations About Race (CCAR) Facilitators in Training preparing to offer one-day Beyond Diversity seminar
  • Developed the City’s first-ever “Request for Grant Applications” for the Equity Mini-Grant Fund, removing barriers and providing access to $75,000 of City funding for innovative, grassroots community organizations
  • Performed an assessment of the City’s bond election programs, ensuring funding was received for a community health center in the majority-People of Color and low-income neighborhood of Dove Springs
  • Worked with the 9 Commissions represented on the Joint Inclusion Committee to transform Quality of Life commissions budget recommendation process, delivering over $10 Million in funding over the last two budget cycles
  • Created online training on sexual harassment for all City employees to be rolled out in October 2019, with additional training targeting sexual harassment in the sworn departments in FY20
  • $200K allocated in FY 19-20 budget to conduct a Quality of Life study for people with disabilities
  • $250K allocated in the FY 19-20 budget for the equity mini grants program (up from $175k from the prior year)

Music and Arts: Nurturing the people and institutions and make Austin a music destination.

  • Voters rejected Props A & B 
  • Added a dedicated fund and approximately $3.5m/yr towards music
  • Unanimous approval to expand Convention Center
  • Moved funding for Red River streetscape improvements. Fixed 7th street alleyway issue
  • Expanded the Creative Space Assistance Program
  • HOT Tax spending of $12.8M in support of cultural arts
  • $3.5M allocation in the 2018 bond towards new community creative spaces plus $750K in operating funds to assist arts and music groups at risk of being displaced

Climate: Working toward a livable planet for future generations through thoughtful planning and leadership

  • August – Mayor & Council Declared a Climate Emergency
  • In December, announced participation in Climate Mayors Steering Committee
  • Participated in C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen
    • Signed Global Pledge to Reduce Air Pollution by reducing their local emissions and advocating for reductions in regional/state/national emissions
    • Climate Equity Pledge — Took pledge to increase action on community-led development, inclusive climate action and infrastructure projects that achieve major environmental, health, social and economic benefits especially in low-income and vulnerable communities.
    • Signed Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration — pledged to transition to Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets by: 1) procuring, with our partners, only zero-emission buses from 2025 and 2) ensuring a major area of our city is zero emission by 2030.
  • City of Austin Fleet:  200 electric vehicles by end of year, rising to 330 in 2020
  • Approved new floodplain maps and rules in response to Atlas 14

Preservation: Protecting the places that embody Austin’s rich history

  • In September, helped the Elizabet Ney Museum win $150,000 in grants to preserve the legacy of women’s history
  • In December, council voted to add historic designation to World War II veteran Richard Overton’s house
  • $11.9M spent in support of historic preservation

Government that Works: A commitment to transparency and good data in the execution of city business.

  • Opening of the new $122M Planning Development Center (summer 2020)
  • $8M in the capital rehabilitation fund for critical facility maintenance needs
  • $450K increase and additional staffing in the Office of Police Oversight to improve the transparency and accountability of community policing
  • $200K to conduct a Quality of Life study for people with disabilities

Homelessness: Laser-focused on making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. 

  • Decriminalized homelessness
  • Made historic investment of $62.7M in homelessness solutions
  • Traveled to Seattle and Los Angeles to better understand issue
  • Participated in several public forums to engage with the community directly
  • Participated in panel at this year’s Texas Tribune Fest focused on the issue
  • Homelessness blockchain project received $409,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help safeguard the personal info of people as they try to secure housing and services
  • Opened Terrace at Oak Springs – permanent supportive housing thorough Integral Care
  • Approved Riverside redevelopment with affordable housing + immediate units for homeless
  • The completion of the Rathgeber Center
  • Pay for Success approved
  • Progress toward a TPID to support homeless efforts
  • Cut youth homelessness PIT count by half
  • Re-did the ARCH contract, paying living wages, and changing the operational focus to housing and case management
  • Ramped up the Workforce First Pilot

Public Safety: One of the country’s safest big cities… and working to keep it that way.

  • Investigation of racism in APD
  • Sexual Assault Oversight
  • 30 new police officers as called for in the Police Department’s staffing plan 
  • Temporary fire staffing for D2 firehouse
  • Funded Bridge to Safety Program (domestic violence)
  • Funded Wildfire Mitigation

Reform and Progress: Big ideas, big plans and getting better all the time.

  • In September, broke ground on the Austin FC stadium. MLS officially coming to Austin!
  • First reading of new draft Land Development Code passed
  • Funded abortion support services in the budget 
  • Approved the long term plan for parks 
  • Approved plan for Asian American Resource Center (and initiated planning in on adjacent property), Dougherty Arts Center, and Brush Square
  • Started construction and acquired land for new fire stations.
  • Worked to set up a Municipal Management District to raise money to acquire MUNY
  • Passed an election day time-off resolution
  • Audit of Cultural Centers
  • Removed a 100+ year exclusion from taxes for lakefront property
  • Improved training resources and made recommended changes for mental health first responders
  • Allocated $3M in the FY budget in support of workforce development providers

Noteworthy Extras

  • Sent queso to the moon!
  • Mayor Adler named Best elected Official by Austin Chronicle 4th year in a row
  • Received United States Conference of Mayors and Wells Fargo 2019 CommunityWINS $100,000 Grant for Outstanding Achievement Metropolitan City for Affordable Central Texas, Inc. to support the Affordable Central Texas Project (housing strike fund)
  • Announced Texas Capital Bank as first bank investor in Austin Housing Conservancy Fund
  • Austin announced as USCM 2020 host City

Budget for 2019-20 reflects what matters to Austin

The budget Council has approved is responsible, innovative and focused on equitable solutions. It embodies the priorities and character of Austin, with investments in arts and music, affordability and mobility, public safety and making chronic homelessness a thing of the past. The budget accomplishes all of this while preserving city service affordability for residents and homeowners.

State leadership has made this kind of budget very difficult to achieve in the future. While tying the hands of cities with revenue caps, the legislature has also opted not to promote or fund statewide solutions for major challenges that affect major cities, including homelessness. We remain hopeful that state leadership may yet consider help for Texas cities as other states have recently done.

In the meantime, our budget will take on sexual assault and mental health services and execute the solutions promised by the 2018 affordable housing bond. It improves the transparency and accountability of community policing and assists arts and music groups in danger of being displaced. 

Mayor Adler’s Statement on Proposed 2020 Budget

August 5, 2019 — The proposed city budget announced today represents an historic investment to accelerate our response to homelessness. At an increase of $17M over last year — or a total of $62.7M — it’s a bold step that I hope will ally the business, faith, neighborhood, and non-profit communities to join us in action and purpose. Homelessness is the priority and the moment is now. 

This budget substantially expands public safety spending — with specific emphasis on sexual assault and mental health — while maintaining affordability with only a 2.5% total increase in combined city taxes and energy, water and other city utility fees.

State leadership and the legislature have made this kind of budget very difficult in the future.  We have a year to figure this out. Maybe the State will help us with the cost of responding to homelessness, just as California committed $650 million in targeted assistance to its cities a month ago. 

The announcement of Lori Pampilo-Harris as Austin’s first Homeless Strategy Officer is like the cavalry coming over the hill. She has a unique moment to align the city, businesses, neighborhoods, and non-profits to address our concerns both for people and places.

What Everyone Should Know About City Council’s Actions to Keep Austinites Safe and Housed

An Update on Austin’s Homelessness Challenge

There is very constructive, overwhelming community consensus on the urgency of the need to address homelessness in our city. Homelessness advocates, law enforcement officials, local businesses, neighborhoods and city residents are all ready to work toward solutions to all three of the distinct kinds of challenges that homelessness presents, beyond assisting those that need our help:

  • Public Safety threats include things like aggressive panhandling, aggressive approaching, touching, threatening, intimidating, blocking, impeding, and trespassing on someone’s private property.
  • Public Health hazards include things like exposure to unsanitary conditions, drug paraphernalia and human waste.
  • Unhoused Living challenges arise when we are exposed to and directly presented with disruptive mental health or physical conditions that do not constitute public safety threats or public health hazards but nonetheless are difficult or upsetting to confront.

This Thursday, Austin City Council will consider three matters that seek to address these three issues.

The first is a proposed ordinance that maintains all the tools the police department currently has to address any threat to public safety or public health hazard, without criminalizing non-threatening unhoused living challenges. The new ordinance removes the allowance of arresting or ticketing someone who — in an officer’s opinion and judgment — is neither threatening public safety nor presenting a public health hazard. This change will be applied to three provisions of city code:

  • City Code, Section 9-4-11, “Camping in Public Area Prohibited”.
  • City Code, Section 9-4-14, “Sitting or Lying Down…in the Downtown…”
  • City Code, Section 9-4-13, “Solicitation Prohibited” (will be expanded to all non-solicitation, aggressive confrontations)

These proposed changes to city code maintain APD’s ability to deal with threats to public safety and public health hazards, but no longer make it a crime to sit, lie, camp, or solicit in a manner that is not posing such threats or hazards. It is worth noting that city code on solicitation is actually broadened, under this measure, to include any “aggressive confrontation,” whether or not solicitation is involved.

The second matter Council will consider on the subject of homelessness is a proposed resolution which asks the City Manager to give the Council and community better options than now exist to deal with the non-threatening, unhoused living challenges. These could include steps such as identifying places where camping would and would not be allowed and providing a safer place for families that are currently sleeping in their cars along our streets and moving toward more housing (shelters and permanent).

The third anticipated Council action this week will be taking a real step forward by locating a shelter which could provide an additional safe place where people experiencing homelessness can be referred for individual assessment and services to address their particular challenges on the way to more permanent housing. More such capacity will be required, but this is an important next step.

If these measures pass, police will have the tools they need to deal with the health and safety concerns sometimes associated with some of those experiencing homelessness. Additionally, the city will be moving toward more effectively dealing with the non-threatening, unhoused living challenges in our community by providing real solutions rather than the ineffective, inefficient, and morally tenuous criminalization of an already difficult life situation.

The backdrop for all of these updates is the work Council is doing in addition to the items on this week’s agenda. Other efforts to address homelessness include re-scoping the ARCH downtown, moving $8 million of federal funding toward supportive homelessness housing and expanding the convention center to create a $4 million to $10 million dedicated annual funding stream.

We have much work still to do in service of the goal of making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. But as Mayor, I’m committed to preserving the coalition of community partners and maintaining a focus on constructive results.