In Austin, city officials are working to address persistent homelessness, experienced by nearly 7,000 people in the city and Travis County each year. Moreover, Black Austinites are disproportionately experiencing homelessness; while making up 8 percent of the general population, they account for 34 percent of the unhoused population. Prioritizing homelessness, as well as giving care and services to those experiencing homelessness, are focal points of Imagine Austin, Strategic Direction 2023, and Austin’s Action Plan to End Homelessness, which define and enact the city’s response to homelessness, focusing on the efficient and effective use of resources. The Austin Public Health Department’s newly created Homeless Services Division is working to coordinate efforts within the city and with community organizations to ensure that homeless response activities, especially for behavioral and mental health crises, are smoothly and effectively implemented.

To support these efforts, Austin will partner with FUSE Executive Fellow Mary Lonigro for one year to build a systematic response to behavioral and mental health crises, ensuring that staff are equipped to provide these services, particularly during the current health crisis.